Looking back on my life from my perch here at the year 2020, I am amazed how inefficient and sluggish I used to be in my work and personal life. When I moved on from college to a job and my own place in 2000, I would generally juggle just a few tasks in my head at any given time. But I’d forget things, procrastinate on big projects, and spend gobs of my day doing nothing productive whatsoever — usually surfing the web. Fear and panic would motivate me to work hard in spurts, but it was never constant.
That changed as I started to adopt organizational systems that culminated in the use of online scheduling and task lists (first Wunderlist and now Tick Tick). The Syp of today holds fast to a routine to get everything done, trusting in that ever-rolling To Do list.
And let me tell you, that task list is far more imposing today than it ever was. I have a family, I have two jobs, I have other projects at hand. I can’t afford to juggle anything in my head or lurch from project to project with no clear pattern or schedule. My task list is my safety net, keeping me from overlooking what needs doing while helping me structure my day.
That said, I will wake up in the morning and look at my list and almost be paralyzed by how many things are on it. Today, for example, had 33 To Do items listed. Staring at a block of tasks like that triggers a sort of overload paralysis, where mentally it’s too much to process and so the brain starts to shut down as a defense mechanism.
I’ve faced this in MMORPGs, although to a lesser extent. Usually it has to do with games in which I’ll hoover up scads of quests and then face a quest log that’s overloaded with tasks all demanding my attention. Where to start? What to do? How will I get through all of this?
The answer to this is not to concentrate on them all at once. I can’t do that anyway, and that’s what the task list or the quest tracker is for, to keep them in queue until I have time. Instead, I move into a three-pronged approach:
- I’ll prioritize the most vital things that MUST GET DONE either first or that very day, and I’ll make sure to plow through those without delay. I’ll then sort the remainder into a list that juggles time and importance and ease of completion.
- Then I’ll narrow down my attention to a single task or quest. I won’t think about anything else that needs doing, just the one thing in front of me. I’ll give that task or quest my all and plug away at it until it gets done or my time allotted for that task is complete.
- Finally, I’ll be thinking of what tasks could — and maybe should — get bumped to the future if I don’t get through them today. I try not to bump job and personal tasks too many times, but I’m shameless in booting them if the day is too crowded and they are not mission critical. With quests, almost none of them HAVE to get done during a given play session except maybe time-limited or daily missions.
By focusing on a single task at a time and plugging away, I am amazed just how much more I can get done than from trying to multitask or from being overwhelmed to where I grind to a halt. Today I started with 33 items, but now as I write this, I’m down to 10. I should have all of them done before my rest time at night, which is a great feeling in and of itself.
For MMOs, cleaning out that quest log may take time, but it will happen surely enough if I slaughter those quests one by one. It’s almost a surprise the day I hit a clean quest log because I start to think I’m in this routine forever. But there is always an ending point to be discovered.