Summary of “How to Focus on What’s Important, Not Just What’s Urgent”

In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people typically chose to complete tasks that had very short deadlines attached to them, even in situations in which tasks with less pressing deadlines were just as easy and promised a bigger reward.
For very important and long-avoided tasks, I like a strategy that I call “Clearing the decks,” which means assigning a particular task to be the only one I work on for an entire day.
Unfamiliar but important tasks often have a learning curve that makes how much time they’ll take to complete unpredictable.
Many important tasks involve tolerating thinking about things that could go wrong, which is anxiety-provoking.
General examples of important but potentially anxiety-provoking tasks include: developing new friendships, doing something challenging for the first time, asking for what you want, having awkward conversations, facing up to and correcting mistakes, and chipping away at large, multi-month tasks where you need to tolerate fluctuating self-confidence and doubt throughout the project.
In the future, you might decide to limit yourself to making your three most important comments on any piece of work that’s fundamentally acceptable, or give yourself a time limit for how long you’ll spend providing notes.
To overcome a pattern of spending all day “Chasing cows,” you can outsource, automate, batch small tasks, eliminate tasks, streamline your workflow, or create templates for recurring tasks.
The number of deadlines and decisions we face in modern life, juxtaposed with the emotionally challenging nature of many important tasks, makes this struggle an almost universal one.

The orginal article.