If you’re a knowledge worker, by and large your work every day falls into five categories according to the99percent:
Problem Solving – where you apply your creativity to come up with solutions to problems and advancing projects that you’re working on. Typically I find this is the part of my day that requires the most energy, as creativity and good thinking is what you need space and energy to do, so I tend to schedule the biggest problem solving tasks for the early part of the day when I have the most energy and are sharpest.
For me, typically most of my problem solving occurs in Steven Covey’s quadrant 2, important but not urgent.
Reactionary – Where you have to react and deal with something urgent in response to a situation that might have arisen, e.g. your IT servers blowing up, or a colleague off sick when an important report is due. This would be quadrant one stuff, important and urgent. You need to get it out the door. Just two things I’d say about reactionary work.
If you spend most of your time doing reactionary work, and it’s taking up most of your day, it’s worth taking a look at how you can clear the decks and start spending more time in quadrant 2. Certain types of work that requires a lot of creative thinking are not best done when under pressure, I find I don’t do very good creative work if I’m under heavy time pressure
If you spend most of your time doing important/not urgent stuff, you’ll be a LOT less stressed and better able to deal with a reactionary task when it comes up.
Procedural – Admin/maintenance – this is the stuff that we all need to do but don’t do enough of as it’s never fun. Paying bills, tax returns, tracking communications and reviewing projects. This is mechanical stuff, put lots of processes and habits in place to get through these things as quickly as you can with as few errors as possible. Technology helps.
Planning – Scheduling, prioritising time, managing energy, allocating your two most precious resources, time and energy. This goes with the Problem Solving to some extent, because creative use of time can be something that gives you a significant edge.
Insecurity – This would be the time that you spend not advancing anything, it’s mostly checking stuff to ease your emotional state, and doesn’t add value. Most of the time you’re not aware you’re doing this.
It’s very useful to figure out how much time you spend doing each of the above. Ideally the bulk of your time should be spent doing problem solving, because it is the solutions that really add value and advance everything you do.