Productivity and GTD
Operations vs Projects
It seems kind of paradoxical, but it often happens that, in our pursuit of an enhanced quality of life, we are assuming new responsibilities that can be a source of stress if finally we take on more than we can handle. The same happens at work. To grow, promote and improve, we have to—in almost all cases—acquire more responsibilities.
Unfortunately, during this process we don’t usually remove old responsibilities—at least not to the same extent—in order to get a balance. This means that, over time, you are always making more commitments and having more things to do in your inbox. And you must learn to manage this growing volume of activity not to get your lifestyle utterly ruined.
The first step is to identify whether a commitment is an operation or a project. Managing operational tasks in an efficient way can increase your productivity dramatically.
Operations are those activities that don’t aim to produce anything new, but to maintain and sustain a system. In a business, for example, administrative tasks are operations. In an individual, eating, sleeping and paying monthly electricity bills are also operations. Projects, on the contrary, are temporary endeavors that seek a unique result. Operations are repetitive and static, and aim to keep everything running. Projects produce a specific deliverable and then dissolve.
It’s interesting to separate operational tasks from projects because thank to their ongoing, repetitive and standard nature they can be managed in a very convenient way. You can batch them into periodic routines, thereby minimizing the time they take. In addition, operations are totally predictable and can accurately be planned, which means that most of them can even be automated. Of course, you need to always put the needed resources in place for them.
The bottom line is that you should always identify the operational tasks as they appear in your inbox. They are a large percentage of your activity that, if properly managed, will require only a small percentage of your effort. Ask yourself if you can automate them. If not, minimize their impact by including them in any of your regular routines. In these routines, always try to group similiar tasks that require the same work context.