If the mere sight of your extensive task list if enough to send a shiver up your spine here are some quick and easy tips to get it down a small, focussed hit list. Quick disclaimer at this point – you need to be using a software solution for managing your tasks. Apologies to the folks who use the retro pen and paper approach. Having got that out of the way, let’s get to it!
Step 1: Filter
My task management system includes a list of scheduled tasks with start and due dates. Something akin to the defer list in Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen. This scheduled list has many activities covering up to 3 months and we need to take some steps to get this down to something that shows which tasks are of immediate concern. So, first step is to FILTER the list to tasks that must start either today or this week depending on how precisely you set dates and the duration of your tasks. This then results in a much shorter list.
Step 2: Flag
Next step is to identify from the short list which tasks will be targeted today – the so called hit list. To indicate that the task is targeted we FLAG it. I assume your software has some option for highlighting tasks. On my favourite app, Abstractspoon Todolist, it appears as a flag. On yours it may be a star or some other icon. So, whichever symbol you use, highlift those you intend to do today. The method you use to select those tasks is worthy of several books but let me give two considerations for this,
- Which task will add most to fulfilling my objective?
- Which task enables others to progress their objectives?
You will note that time and priority don’t come into it. Time has already been dealt with in step 1 – the short list is already the tasks of immediate interest. In a way this also addresses priority as the dates set may also have been defined with deadlines in mind. In general though I don’t consciously work with priorities.
Step 3: Filter
Hold up, hold up there! Didn’t you just mention Filter? Yes, yes I did. But this filter is a new completely different filter with bells and whistles! Just kidding.
This second filter will be applied to the Flag/Star/other icon that we used in Step 2 to identify our hit list. The reason for this second filter is to remove all other tasks from sight except those we have specifically highlighted for today. This is to avoid any distraction and migration to other tasks which catch our eye as we peruse the task list.
These three steps can be summarised in the following flow diagram. Try it and let me know if it helps!