Instant Gratification vs. Instant Perspective

Feb 13, 2015
Joe Buhlig
~1 min

I finished (second) breakfast and sat down at my computer to pull together analytics on one of my company’s websites. At that moment, a coworker texted me a question. I don’t remember what the question was about, but I do remember that it was almost an hour before I managed to get back to work.

It’s amazing how quickly we can lose our focus. We can be deep into a project and three seconds later fall into a black hole of distraction that takes hours to overcome. What’s going on here and how do we avoid it?

Instant Gratification

When you look at your to-do list for the day, there are most likely items on it that are both easy and hard. Some will take a long time to complete and others are quick. As people who enjoy checking things off, we like to do those quick and easy items. They give us an instant sense of accomplishment.

Instant Perspective

If you’re like most, you’ve set New Year’s resolutions or goals for the year. However you do it, you know that there are important things you’ve decided to do. You know you should be doing the tasks that drive you closer to these goals regardless of their difficulty. But it’s hard to make this decision without putting your choice in perspective. Since these happen almost immediately and intuitively, we need a fast way to see our goals and priorities.

The Setup

To decide quickly, I need a fast way to see the right information. In this case, the information I need is my list of goals and the prioritization of my Areas of Responsibility.

The Areas of Responsibility are easy since I use them as folders in Omnifocus. I can simply switch to Omnifocus to see what area trumps another by looking at their order from top to bottom.

I keep my goals in Evernote. Using saved searches and note links (along with Alfred), I can find the right information in a few seconds.

How it Helps

Anytime you’re faced with a tough decision on what to do next or you sense the urge to do something just because it’s easy or fun, pull up the information you need to make an accurate decision. Don’t always do the task you want to do. Do the task you should do.