We are busy people, task oriented people. A thing to do and another thing and then another thing. I have so many thoughts about this disposition, its strengths and weaknesses. Today, however, I want to talk a little about how a person (i.e. me) in a salaried (i.e. never-off) position with both task-based and strategic or project-based work might approach the challenges of all of the individual things and all of the larger ideas all at once.
For me the first and foremost issue is working effectively -- how do I allow myself to be effective and how do I set myself up for success in structuring my work week?
There are times when I can do certain types of work very well and times when I am just banging my head against the very same task. While we don't always have the leisure to structure our workloads to coincide with our highest levels of productivity, knowing what works and what doesn't is always helpful. What I can do in the morning, what I can do between meetings, and what I can do when I'm in a bad mood or hungry or tired is very important.
I think about tasks that get me back on track when I'm not focused: debriefing from meetings, organizing and updating my project to-do lists, triaging my email.
I think about what work I have to do during the day, and what work I can do at home: do I need my dual-monitor workstation to do this project best? Can I do this project while a cat is standing on top of my arms? Do I want to create a separation where I only do research in one place? I try to have my work arrayed so I have the best access to the work best done wherever I am.
I let myself be influenced by my moods. If I am working at home and I'm being very productive, I know that groove may not last, I may not be able to replicate it the next day or even during the week, so I go with it. Have the work ready to go when you're ready to go. I learned this from my father who worked on the road and had a very flexible schedule, and anyone with ADD will tell you the same: the groove is the payoff for all of the other trouble, so use it.
The balance between tasks and projects is a difficult one -- I find tasks to weigh on me more than projects, but also easier to lay aside. Small tasks pile up, and I need a groove to get focused and get them done. At the same time, projects require periods of focus without interruption, including the interruption of remembering all of the small tasks that need accomplished. However, both cases benefit from a mindset of "do the thing right in front of you." I make lists. So many lists.
What about you, how do you deal with all the little things and all the big things?