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Can I Have Your Attention? by Jonathan McKee, Curt Steinhorst

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Chapter 18Managing the Minutiae

You settle into your desk at work, wake up your laptop, and scan today's to-do list. Fifty-four items. A little light today.

In reality, you're not going to get 54 things done during the workday, but tackling some of these tasks means not tackling others. Which means they'll haunt you on tomorrow's list, which probably already includes items from last year.

Who invented the stupid to-do list anyway?

Today's worker is drowning in to-dos. The volume of tasks you and your employees must manage leads to an inevitable sense of overload. Sixty-four percent of workers younger than age 34 report feeling overwhelmed at work. So do 59 percent of their colleagues ages 35 to 54.1

Task lists continue to grow in the constantly connected workplace, forcing us to differentiate each task's importance. But how do we know where to start?

Most workers let their inboxes dictate importance or let their to-do lists assign equal value to every item. Either way, most of us attack the easy stuff first.

This morning, I had 67 e-mails, a flight itinerary to review, some personal accounting, three phone calls, and this chapter to write. The latter required the most focus. So, of course, I was tempted to handle e-mails, book travel, and make my calls first. Dopamine flows when we check off lots of little items on our lists.

But the most important item was the chapter. Almost every other task could have waited until after lunch and my post-carbohydrate drag.

My answer to the ...

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