Task Systems Too Full

Have you ever started using a new productivity system (app, list, notebook, cards, etc.) then abandoned it?

This usually happens because we let our systems get full of stuff to do that we haven’t done yet. As the pile of things to do grows, we add “do it today” flags and reminders to all sorts of items. It gets so unwieldy (and we often feel so guilty) that we go back to using email and fire-fighting to get stuff done.

Here’s the way out: instead of seeing items in our productivity system as a things to do, see them as things we are not going to do. Then, every week, we select three to four best next things we will do that week. And each day, we select three to four best next things to do that day, most of which will support the weekly things. (Lest you worry, we are remarkably effective at making these “best next” selections.)

Throughout the days and weeks, we complete what we chose to complete. We handle any truly urgent items as they come up. But we put most requests (emails, meeting takeaways, etc.) into our “not to do” list. Whatever doesn’t get done during a particular day or week goes back into the “not to do” pile. We can reselect them for the next week or day or pick all new items to do. If we complete everything for a day or week, we can choose to do the next best thing from the “not to do” list.

By actively keeping most things in a “not to do” pile, our systems remain manageable and we remain focused.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit:
Alexandre Duret-Lutz

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