How to get things done when you’re down

Years ago there was a fashion when companies were recruiting, to put candidates through an ‘In-tray exercise’.

The basic idea was that you gave your applicant a stack of documents representing the kind of material they might receive in a typical day, then watched how they dealt with them (apparently tipping them all into the wastepaper basket and heading for the pub wasn’t the way to get the job).


At its heart this process was all about prioritisation, about what to do first, what to do second and what (perhaps) to simply ignore.

I think it’s pretty much accepted that it’s impossible to succeed in one’s working life without being able to juggle tasks and weigh priorities.

But I wonder if we always apply the same sort of sensible thinking to our private lives?

When you face countless demands on your time, do you treat each of them as being of equal importance? Do you simply tackle them in the order in which they arrive on your doorstep?

At the end of the day, will you have ticked off tasks of lesser consequence, while the bigger issues still loom over you?

Figuring out what’s important to you can make a lot of sense in such circumstances.

In my own case, for instance, regular contact with people makes a massive difference to me, but when I’m busy I can end up spending all my time on the task in hand rather than getting in touch with others.

So if your tasks today were contained in an In-tray, which bits would be the really important ones?

And which might you safely ignore?

3 thoughts on “How to get things done when you’re down

  1. Thank you for your advice re: prioritisation, Jon. Time management has never been my forte and procrastination, especially when my mood is shabby, completely paralyses me. I attempt to break the cycle, and finish pressing tasks, by regularly working late into the night with the result that I become overtired and unable to think clearly. The task is not completed to my satisfaction and so on… What to do please? Have you any top tips about how to deal with the root cause of procrastination?

    1. Snap MA! This is exactly how I behave!
      Yes, please Jon – where can we go to deal with the root cause of procrastination?

  2. So i’m great at prioritising in the office….at home it never occurred to me to prioritise. I just wait until i can’t wait anymore then do things like pay bills, get documentS organised. If i have any priorities the are sleep and good food

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