Almost all of my work comes in the form of to-do list action items. While I would love to say that every day is fairly predictable, it often changes drastically based on the demands of customers and the business. While I’m pretty good at taking time to reset my to-do list every week (normally Monday mornings), I’ve noticed a disturbing trend as the week goes along:
Every place in this chart that you see a gap between the two lines represents waste of one kind or another. The most common occurrence is for my perception of the work at hand to far exceed the actual work. Ever get the feeling that you have 15 things to do, and then when you reflect and write down your list, it’s actually more like 5 things? The extra stress you feel about that longer list is a waste of time and energy.
At the same time, there’s an equal danger when your actual work exceeds your perception. This typically happens if I’m just finishing up a big project, or looking forward to things outside of work (an upcoming vacation, for instance). By assuming I’m in good shape, I’m actually setting myself up for a big spike in stress when I finally sit down and realize all I have to get done.
Just like a morning team stand-up, consider setting aside time every day to reflect on what you’re working on today. Not only will your perception more closely match reality, but you’ll also be more likely to remember things that happened in the last 24 hours, which means fewer surprises down the road. Your daily stress will be reduced, and people will come to know you as a dependable member of the team.