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Hacking Your Life with Task Types

I want to share an idea that has changed my life by mitigating burnout and feeling more fulfilled day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year. The idea is task typing.

In my next two blog posts, I will introduce you to the idea and show you a few ways to use it to improve performance, happiness, fulfillment, and productivity.

4 Types of Tasks

In essence, there are 4 categories that every task falls into. Those categories and formed by two-axis; importance and urgency. This is sometimes called the Eisenhower Matrix. In the figure below the x-axis describes a task’s urgency and the y-axis describes a task’s importance.

Quadrant I: Urgent – Important Tasks

A task that is Urgent and Important often consumes our life. They show up as urgent requests from our bosses, loved ones, and the unexpectedness of life. These are drop everything tasks and do it now. They cause us to lose our rhythm. Often we perceive dire consequences if these tasks aren’t done immediately or in a timely matter. We often describe these tasks as “firefighting”.

An example of an urgent – important task might be the production system is down due to a bug. We need to drop everything, get production running, and fix the bug. In our personal life, this might be an unexpected bill or an accident.

Quadrant II: Non-Urgent – Important Tasks

A task that is non-urgent – important is one that we deem important, often because it moves us towards our goals. However, these tasks often take a backseat to more urgent tasks. In many cases, these tasks are not done because they take energy to complete and we are tired from all the “firefighting”, so we look at Quadrant III or IV task to feel good about completing something or for distraction.

An example of a non-urgent – important task, might be refactoring a component that is slowing the system down, or creating a report feature for the user to free up operations time. In our personal lives, these show up as tasks we need to complete in order to complete a goal.

Quadrant III: Non-Urgent – Non-Important Tasks

Quadrant III tasks are tasks that distract us from our objectives. These tasks are things like pointless meetings, unnecessary paperwork, playing a game. We often use these tasks for distractions or instant-gratification. Non-urgent – non-important tasks are tasks that if we don’t do then they will have little impact on the overall project or vision.

An example of this task might be creating a meeting to discuss a feature and bringing in people that are not needed for the task. In our personal life, these tasks can show up as endlessly cleaning or watching tv.

Quadrant IV: Urgent – Non-Important Tasks

Urgent – non-important tasks are tasks that have a deadline but have little consequences to them if they are not completed.

An example of this task might be replying to emails or chat messages. In our personal life, they might show up as chores.

Where We Live

Most of us live in Quadrants I and III. Either we are handling things that need to happen right now, else there will be consequences, or we are living in distraction or exhaustion. The secret is to begin eliminating quadrant III and IV tasks to create space to complete more quadrant II tasks. Doing more quadrant II tasks allows us to get ahead of the things that cause quadrant I tasks, and feel more fulfilled and energized.

Understanding the 4 task types and how they may be showing up in your business or life is the first step to taking control and making changes. In the next post, I will describe some systems and philosophies to help eliminate quadrant III and IV tasks and create the space to start feeling more fulfilled and take back your time and energy.

Resources

Most of this content is adapted from third-party content.

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Ryan Van Fleet
13 Feb, 2020