How Traditional Task Management Kills Your Work/Life Balance

September 01, 2011
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"I'll do it, when I have time..."

To be honest, we all throw this sentence around casually. But did you know that this sentence is an indicator of a bad Work/Life-Balance? The problem with "not having any time right now" is that important tasks get ousted by more urgent ones.

Example:
You go into the office on Sunday to take care of a few tasks that need to be finished by Monday. As a result, the trip to the zoo you had planned with the kids gets canceled. Even if the tasks that need to be completed are not actually important, they create an urgency to be finished due to the deadline. The plans are moved because it is easier to tell the children that you do not have time, rather than having to explain to your boss that you missed a deadline.

Another Example:
The planned and important Internet research for the upcoming article is set aside in favor of the overdue, albeit relatively unimportant, planning for the next association party.

In the examples shown, each urgent task was preferred only because it included the pressure of a deadline. The importance of the task became lost. This same mechanism leads to more urgent tasks (no matter how important they really are) to be pushed to the front of the queue, and the more important ones to be put on the back-burner.

Duties in personal life that are most important to you and offer more in the long term, unfortunately, do not carry a (binding) deadline. Here would be, for example, the already-mentioned family outing or energy-recharging by partaking in hobbies. Private commitments are usually willingly pushed off because they lack a binding deadline.

The Root of the Problem
Traditional task management supports this effect of "Priority Blindness." In traditional time oriented task management, tasks are measured primarily in terms of their deadline. The importance of the task is quickly overlooked, especially when another task's deadline threatens to become overdue.

Furthermore, traditional task management systems are mostly limited to the job, causing tasks in this field to be preferred. A task management system that balances work and life must also include all things in the realm of private life. Please, do not misunderstand! This does not mean that you should have to plan all of the future tasks that are going to happen in your life. You should, however, have the option to do so.

Is A Good Work/Life Balance Even Worth Striving For?
Think for a moment about how different your life would have been had you chosen the important things more often than having pursued quick payoffs. The result is clear: You would have wasted less time and been more successful with the bigger goals in life. And that is worth striving for, right?

The Solution
Organizing purely based on time/urgency does not seem to be the best approach if you want to keep your life balanced. To solve this problem, a task management system must be based on the task's urgency AND importance. For this exact reason, the Time Management Matrix (also known as "Two-Dimensional Task Plan") was developed. In the Time Management Matrix, tasks are placed in a coordinate system, like you learned in math. In this way, it is clear through just one glance how important and urgent a task is. Thereby, you can always tell the importance of a task and can decide objectively which task to tackle next.

If your interest has been aroused, learn more here, in detail, about how you can create your own two-dimensional task plan.

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