Avoid Task Shunting by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D.
Life can become chaotic in a hurry if we are forever shunting tasks that need to be done. Shunting is not the same as simple procrastination. To shunt a task is to become aware of it more than once, and to continue to put it off. Here are some ways to avoid “the shunt.”
- Do the task. Really. Just stop everything else and do it.
- If you’re missing information and that’s what’s making you shunt the task, make an “action note” for the task. “Ask John how many tables will be needed on the dais for the principal award dinner” is a real action note. Writing “get information” on a sticky-note doesn’t keep you from re-reading the task every time it appears in your inbox. (I have “Next Action” sheets you can download at no cost on my website Top Ten Productivity Tips).
- Do you know how to do the task? Perhaps you’ve forgotten how to deal with this type of situation. Talk to someone – admit that you’ve forgotten – and finish the task.
- Number your tasks at the beginning of the day (and of course the numbering is based on an assessment of the tasks’ priorities. Do not let yourself go out of numerical order. It can be like a game–and you want to win!
- Confirm that the task really needs to be done. Nothing is worse that getting a task done that we’ve been shunting and then find out it didn’t have to be done at all! If you aren’t sure, check with a mentor principal or someone else with even more experience than you in your particular job.
- If the task involves paying for something and you’re waiting until you have money, throw away the order form, the note to yourself, the web address, or other reminder. Later, when you have money, you will have something else you need or want to do with it and there’s no need to have this “task” hanging over your head.
- If you can’t make yourself do #6, then buy the thing, for heaven’s sake!
- Delegate the task if it truly isn’t in your bailiwick. As a principal, you have a number of people you can delegate to – so DO SO! You need to be doing “what only you can do.”
- Vow to stay late once a month until every shunted task is complete. It’s a wonderful feeling.
- Don’t do the task at all – ever. Drop it. Really. If it were that important, you’d have done it by now, anyway.
And to help you with your productivity learn a simple system to finish your unfinished business. Experience the relief of confirming, carrying out, and completing your personal and professional commitments with the teleseminar Finish Your Unfinished Business, available for immediate download!