How to Clear Lingering Tasks

balls in the air

We waste time and energy on lingering tasks. They distract and drain us until we finally deal with them. If we have a task that we just can’t seem to get done, then it usually falls into one of these three categories:

  1. We don’t want to do it now and we don’t want to forget about it. We try to remember it and every other task. Truth is, our brains aren’t really wired to keep track of more than a few tasks.
  2. We want to do it at one level and we fear doing it at another level. For example: we want the benefit of having made those sales calls but don’t relish making the calls.
  3. We don’t want to do it all and we don’t know how to get it off our plate. We’ve said yes and now regret agreeing to do this.

The first step to clear any lingering task is to acknowledge it. Pull it out of the corner of your mind it has been hiding in and face it: “Here is a task that I have not yet done.”

The next step depends on the above category.

  1. If you don’t want to do it now and want to remember it, put it on your back burner list. You will review it every time you do a weekly refresh of your effectiveness system.
  2. If you hesitate out of fear or discomfort, chances are you are considering too big of a bite. Try doing the smallest possible and still practical next step. In the sales example, maybe you imagine your next step to be “Get them all to like us and buy our product.” The real next step could be to make one sales call with express purpose of setting up an exploratory meeting.
  3. If you don’t want to do it and can’t see how to get it off your plate, go back to the person you made the commitment to and renegotiate. Be clear and seek win-win. “I am avoiding doing this task. Can we renegotiate it? Tell me a bit more about the results you like to see, I’ll tell you what I am interested in, and we can then put our heads together to come up with an approach that works best.”

Enjoy the ensuing calm.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: cc

Leave a Reply