Little Tasks Taking Over Your Schedule? Time to Clear the Deck

Jun 28, 2023

Little Tasks Taking Over Your Schedule? Time to Clear the Deck

by | Jun 28, 2023

Working through your inbox … Paying bills … Ordering supplies, oh, and the gift for that birthday party next week … Finding your notes under the 7 dirty coffee cups … Sorting through boxes … That Amazon return you don’t want to forget … Scheduling appointments … 

There are so many little things that can pull us out of focus and get in the way of getting our most important work done. 

Do you spend all day putting out little fires: responding to messages, looking for materials, doing mundane tasks, just because they popped into your head? 

Do you move things like drop off packages or schedule coaching session or send bio from list to list? Maybe they don’t even get written down, but they’re in your head (and then out, and then back in again). 

Either way, it’s hard to focus with all these things clamoring for our attention. That’s why clearing the deck is one of our Focus Sessions buckets. Building a Clear the Deck session or two into every week is a great way to stay on top of little tasks and keep them from hijacking your schedule. 

Clear the Deck Weekly 

You can set up your clear the deck session whenever it works in your schedule. I like to schedule one early in the week and one at the end. 

A clear the deck session on Monday or Tuesday helps me clear out any tasks that came up during my Monday planning session. My big brain dump as part of that planning usually has a lot of client calls, content to write, visioning or planning time — or deep work, but there are always a bunch of smaller tasks too—messages to follow up on, things I need to schedule or order or find, errands I need to run, calls I need to make, or research I need to do. 

I can put those items on a Clear the Deck list. Then when I get to that scheduled time on my calendar, I can work through the list. You can even clump like activities: see how many messages you can respond to or delete in your given time. Stack your errands, plot your route, and go. Make a list of appointments you need to make, set your timer and see how many you can cross off before it goes off. 

A Clear the Deck session on Friday is a great way to wrap up the week. This is a great time to:

    • tie up loose ends on a project
    • check in with people about anything you need for the next week
    • clear your workspace — dishes to the kitchen, papers recycled, files put away
    • shut down your computer — even if you use your computer for other things, closing out all your tabs and shutting down clears clutter and signals that you are done for now
    • take a look ahead at your calendar — even if you don’t plan the next week, you can make some notes about things you don’t want to forget or any potential sticky places. 

Try a daily clear the deck. You can do a similar process at the end of each day. You might not need a full Focus Session to do it, but taking a little bit of time to clear the deck before you close down for the day can set you up for a clean start for the next day. 

If you don’t have a closing routine, consider adding one. There’s a good chance clearing the deck will be part of it. 

Put a Container Around Clearing the Deck 

It’s easy to let clearing the deck become a distraction. Most of us could spend the bulk of our time clearing the deck. When you use a Focus Session to clear the deck, you’re putting a container around clearing the deck. You’re giving yourself 90 minutes to work on these little tasks and then moving on. If you’re not in a Focus Session, use a timer so you don’t spend all day going through your inbox. 

Clearing the deck can feel different from other Focus Sessions tasks. Often when we check in on our focus level, people who are clearing the deck report levels of 2–3 instead of the 4–5 we often see during deep work. That makes sense. Clearing the deck takes a different kind of brain power than deep work, and it’s often fragmented. Still, it’s worth putting in the time and clearing those things out of the way to make space for deeper focus later!

Clear the Deck and Weave in Fun

Clearing the deck can be full of tasks we might find onerous or a bit of a drag. The plus side is many of these tasks take less intense brain power. Try weaving in a little fun.

    • Music—Pick something a little upbeat than your chill Focus playlist.
    • Pick a new location—Would this be a good café project? Or one to work on outside? Shifting your space can shift your mindset.  
    • Clear the Deck bingo card—Make a grid and fill in all the little things you need to do. Schedule some time and start filling in the card. Stickers to cover over the ones you’ve done add a little more fun. Challenge yourself to finish the card in a month. 
    • Snacks—Before you start your Clear the Deck session, pick a treat for yourself … maybe something you don’t have often. 
    • Rewards—You know we love celebrating wins. Celebrate knocking your clear the deck tasks off your list with a little reward. Choose it ahead of time to give yourself something to look forward to. 

Clearing the deck is one of our focus buckets along with planning and deep work. Learn more about all of these buckets, how to make time for them, and how to find your focus here: Focused: Reclaim Your Time, Ditch Overwhelm, and Do Less Better. 

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