The Working With... Podcast | Episode 26 | To Treat Work & Personal Tasks Separately?

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about work and personal tasks.

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Hello and welcome to episode 26 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week I have a fantastic question about dealing with work and personal tasks and whether or not these should be treated differently. It’s a question I am frequently asked on my YouTube channel about the Your Digital Life 2.0 system and so I thought this podcast would be a great place to answer the question. 

Before we get into this weeks question, I want to let you guys know I have just launched a brand new FREE beginners guide. This online course is a little under 1 hour long and is an update to my other FREE beginners guide to getting your self better organised and more productive. This new course gives you the building blocks for building your very own productivity system. It is just an outline but is packed full of useful tips and tricks. So, if you are new to productivity and time management and want to build your very own system, then this course should really help you to start off with the right tools and mindset. The link to the course is in the show notes for you. 

And one more thing. This new course is the start of a new project. PROJECT 1 MILLION. This is all about me helping one million people by 2020 to find the benefits of becoming better at time management and more productive so they can enjoy their lives stress-free with better health and better relationships with the people that matter to them. More details of this project will be coming out over the next few weeks, but if you like what I do, then please share my podcast, blog posts, videos and all the other content I produce with as many people as you can so together we can help the people in our lives discover the amazing benefits of getting organised. 

Okay, enough of my preamble, now it is time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Joshua and Joshua asks: Do you separate your work tasks from your personal tasks or do you treat all tasks the same? 

Thank you, Joshua, for the question. 

This question is often asked of me and I can answer it simply. I treat all tasks the same. To me, a task is a task and just needs doing. It does not matter whether it is a work task or a personal task. 

Many years ago, I did try and separate the different tasks. And a few years ago it was actually quite easy to separate work and personal tasks because I worked in an office with set hours and my mobile phone had no email. But then came along the iPhone and other smart phones and now email is with me 24 hours a day and my clients and students don’t think twice about messaging me late in the evening to let me know about a meeting reschedule or asking me to check something. 

This meant that it became very impractical to try and separate the two types of tasks so I just decided to treat all tasks the same. If a task needs doing and I have the right device or tool with me, then I just get it done. This has meant that I have fewer decisions to make over all. The only decision I need to make now is “what can I do next based on where I am, who I am with or what tools I have with me?” I no longer need to think whether I am in work mode or personal mode. All modes are the same. 

An example of this was last week. Usually, I take Friday nights off and just relax in front of the TV. But I was going away on a trip last weekend, so around 10 pm I sat down at my computer and did a couple of hours work. Because I no longer distinguish between work and personal time, I had the freedom to just get on with some work. It meant I was not stressed at all on Friday. I was not rushing to get my work finished before 6pm, I just had a normal day and decided I would do some of my work tasks after I had had dinner and watched a little TV. 

And that’s the problem with drawing hard lines between your work life and personal life. It just causes unnecessary stress. Of course, you do need to maintain some balance, but when you try and only do your work tasks Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm and only do personal tasks in the evenings and at weekends, something is going to break. You have no flexibility. And when you have no flexibility your stress levels will increase and you will start missing deadline on important work or you will not achieve the quality you want to achieve. Work related issues will be on your mind on a Sunday evening but because of your strict lines, you will not allow yourself to do anything about it. That to me is avoidable stress. If something’s on your mind and you have the time and are in the right place with the right tool, then just get it done. Don’t worry yourself about when you are doing it. Just get it done. It’s a lot less stressful to think like that rather than trying to erect un-natural barriers. 

If you have a free Sunday evening and there’s nothing else to do, why not start doing some of those work related tasks? Same works for Friday afternoon in the office. If you have all your work done and there are a few things you want to buy online, then just go ahead and place those orders. These are tasks on your to-do list anyway and it really shouldn’t matter when you get them done. The only thing that matters is you get them done. 

Sometimes we over complicate things when we put up unnecessary barriers. I know it always sounds great when people tell us they don’t do anything related to their work after 6 pm or at weekends. The thing is the effort required to not think about or do anything related to our work at home or not do anything related to our personal lives at work, just doesn’t seem worth it to me. 

There are times when I will just shut off the work tasks of course. For example when going away on holiday. I remove the dates from my work tasks in my to-do list manager so they do not show up in my daily lists. But as I run my own business, I do need to keep an eye on my email in case there are any emergencies brewing or I need to reply to a client. But on the whole, I do not separate anything in my daily lists. Personal and business routines are all in the same project folder called “routines” and my Areas of Focus projects are a mix of personal and business. These are just placeholders anyway as the tasks I want to complete on certain days will come up in my daily lists as and when they are due to be done. 

If you really think about it though, tasks naturally fall into place. Your work tasks are generally tasks that can only be done during the so called ‘office hours’ or in the office and your personal tasks can only be done when you are at home or in the evening. This means there really is nothing to be too worried about where you place your routine tasks. As long as you are dating things appropriately and getting tasks done when they should be done—that’s all that matters. You are getting the work done. 

A lot of time when I am asked this question it is in relation to my routines folder in my to-do list manager. In my Your Digital Life 2.0, I advocate that you take all those routines tasks that just have to be done, but do not take your life further forward or help in any way towards achieving your goals—things like take out the garbage or update the weekly sales report—and put them in a folder called “routines” and inside that folder create three sub-projects called “daily”, “weekly” and “monthly” and put all those routines in their relevant folder. This way you can remove these tasks from your daily lists when you are focused on your work and only see them when you need to see them. 

The reason for doing this is because when you look at most people’s to-do lists they are a mix of work and personal tasks, important and not important tasks and as most people tend to pick and choose what tasks to complete based on their mood they end up doing tasks that are not taking their lives further forward or doing anything to achieve their goals. It is far better to see a list of tasks that need doing and are going to take your life further forward and focus you in on the work that matters. Once you have the important tasks done for the day, then you can go into your routines and work on doing the routines that need doing today. 

So there you have it. That’s why I do not keep my work and personal tasks separate. If a task needs doing it needs doing and I do not discriminate between work and personal. All tasks are created equal in my mind. 

Than you again for your question, Joshua. I hope this answers your question. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.