Tracking things to avoid mental downtime

Do you know that feeling when there’s just nothing to do at work? That exact moment when you drift off into your thoughts and browse your favorite website? I vaguely remember it. It was a familiar feeling at previous jobs. I don’t experience it a lot anymore. I don’t think that changed only because my current job is busier than those I had before. I think I actively learned to avoid it.

What happened is that I became better at tracking things. It’s not so much that I have more work to do. In the past I just forgot the things that needed to be done. That’s an unfortunate situation to be in. I was bored at work because I thought there was nothing to do. But there were things to do. I just forgot. First I was bored and then I was angry about forgetting. Great times.

I am still not a good tracker of things. At least I have a to-do list now. It’s my customized inbox. I am in the sweet spot to get through most of it on an average workday. Inbox Zero doesn’t happen a lot. Maybe once or twice a quarter. Inbox Three happens nearly every day. The bug tracker still piles up requests but those don’t count.

Inbox Near-Zero is a mental boost. The small size removes the sense of overwhelming that huge inboxes have. It empowers because it makes the goal visible and seemingly in reach. Even better, when I am done with one task, I know what to work on next. I have completely eliminated the need to mentally recall things that needed doing. Those were the moments when I drifted off to my favorite websites. I opened them and suddenly half an hour had passed. Mental downtime accumulates without you noticing.

Tracking things to avoid mental downtime

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