Every day we are facing some deadlines. There might be a need to finish a report, answer important emails, estimate something, fix some bugs or test next release. Those are all urgent and usually important things. We have to deal with them as a matter of priority.
This is obvious part; big question which I have is what next? What will you do next when all urgent things are done, the pressure is gone and you still have a bit of time?
Basically you have two options. First one is easy; you can switch to things which are not so challenging to relax and rest a bit. Problem however is that those not-so-challenging tasks are most likely almost completely not important. I can tell you without further ado that this is not the way to go.
Alternatively, you can focus on things which can have significant impact on your effectiveness and work quality. First step on that way will be to stop for a while and ask a question: what can I do to make my work more effective? Try to come up with at least one change that will have a significant impact.
If you start thinking in such categories you may be able to identify things like:
- tools which are not as good and useful as they should be – you can replace them with better ones,
- scarcities in your development process – you can work to eliminate them, visible problem is a killable problem,
- manual tasks which can be automated
You can also spend that time on personal development, and for instance:
- master tools which you use every day – learn some advanced features or new keyboard shortcuts,
- do some research,
- learn new design pattern, framework or programming language
Trick is to minimize time which you spend on urgent things. Urgent problems usually have some underlying cause. When you are close to a deadline there is no time for fixing the core issue. Typically it takes too much time so the only viable option is to find a workaround. However without fixing the core issue you can be sure that sooner or later that problem will come back and again it will be something urgent. That’s why it makes sense to spend your time on identifying and fixing core problems. That will reduce number of things which can go wrong and make you more effective. As a consequence it will also allow you to spend even more time on important things like personal development.
Effective people know how to distinguish tasks which are important and really matter, they know how to “put first things first”. They are proactively looking for opportunities to to get better. Are you one of them? What are your ways to have more time for important things?