The other day, when I was decanting my mouthwash, I squeezed too hard on the bottle and spilled lots of it all over my bathroom counter. I was annoyed I was so careless and wasted so much of that blue-green elixir, but I was even more annoyed that I had to walk all the way to the kitchen to grab a couple paper towels to clean it up.
This certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve needed to procure paper towels from the kitchen to clean something up in the bathroom, and I asked myself, “Why don’t I just keep a roll of paper towels in the bathroom?” I finally grabbed one and put it under my sink. It was so obvious and so easy. Why did it take me so long to do it?
Here’s a work-related example: For clients with multiple points of contact, I create email groups so that in the “to” field of an email, I only have to type in the group name and the field auto-populates with everyone’s email addresses. Added up, this saves me a ton of time and ensures that I don’t accidentally leave someone off an email. But when a client experiences turnover, I often put off updating the email group. Instead, I manually remove the person who left from the “to” field.
Editing the “to” field every time I send an email to this contact group negates the time savings of having a group! But taking a beat to update the contact group in my contact list sometimes feels insurmountable, like grabbing a roll of paper towels and putting them in my bathroom.
So, this is a reminder to myself not to succumb to the logic of task pursuit. The logic of task pursuit is clinging to the idea of completing the task at hand without thinking more strategically—for example, identifying and implementing ways to make completing the task more efficient or even unnecessary. It puts cleaning up the mess or sending the email above taking the time to make those tasks easier by putting a roll of paper towels in the bathroom or updating your email groups.
Where are you losing time? How can you make your life a little easier?