David Allen’s book Getting Things Done has been a great resource for me, even when I am not consistently following his guidance (which is often!). He also writes an email newsletter, and in his latest edition he reminds us that it’s OK to pop those less urgent tasks into open spots on our schedule. He writes:
“We need to be ready for, and take advantage of, the weird and uneven time and energy spaces we find ourselves in.
“Ever have the attention span of a gnat—either externally imposed (like stuck on the tarmac at the airport) or internally generated (like 4:30 p.m. on a day of six meetings, five of which were brutal)? Ever have a short (but still unknown) time period, with informal distractions, like waiting for a late meeting to start or being delayed in an airport due to weather?
“There are very few times and places we really have the appropriate energy level, tools, and uninterrupted time frames to work on some of our most important work. The rest of the day, we shouldn’t be feeling guilty that we’re not working on job one. Rather, we should be maximizing our productivity by picking things to do (which we’re going to do anyway, sometime) that match the situation.
“Catch up on the FYI-type read-and-review material while waiting for meetings. Water your plants and fill your stapler when your brain is toast. Call and book the doctor’s appointment you need while you’re waiting for your take-out order. Problem is, most people don’t have all those options already defined and parked in appropriately accessible buckets to rummage through when those situations appear. Mostly when those awkward time slots happen, folks don’t have the energy to remember the pending actions or figure them out.
“There’s a fine line you’ll be walking, between doing the less important items because you’re procrastinating, and doing them because they are the most productive thing you can do right there and then. At worst it’s an energizing way to waste time semi-productively. At best, it’s keeping the decks clear and optimally utilizing yourself as a resource.” (If you’d like to subscribe to David’s GTD newsletter, send a blank email here.)