Improve your time management abilities with this simple realization

There are just too many things that are competing for your available attention. As a consequence, they cannot all win. That's why someone must be in charge to deal with who wins and who doesn't. It'd better be you if you want some sense of control against the ever mounting army.

Applying this to the swarm of objects coming down

Junk Did you ever had a solid and heated argument with your significant other or whoever you share a space with? Like in "Rhhaaa, there is your stuff invading the space again!" "Can't you just stop that?!" yada yada... Well, today's society is pushing stuff down to you all the time. So, instead of pushing all of the issues against other people, just realize that they are also in the same boat. Instead of complaining about someone else, just notice that the enemy is not the other person, but rather that you are both battling against "the stuff." There is just not enough time, don't spend it in unproductive battles. The true battle is against the ever mounting stuff.

Applying this to the task list

Headache Are you fond of task lists? I truly hate tasks lists. I used to do a ton of task lists. I even had software helping me put "scores" on things I had completed. But you know what? It never worked. No matter how hard I tried. Why so? Because tasks lists can just become endless. Ever heard of GTD? A lot of people using this are just shuffling lists like mad, and never get anything done anyway. That's the pinnacle of procrastination: being sucked in the tools that are meant to help you be productive. So what? Get rid of the tasks lists altogether. Use something much simpler: the  3 tasks that matter a day principle.

How does that work?

First of all, stop focusing on tasks and switch to goals. Focus on the goals, forget the tasks. You need to be clear on your goals. They give meaning, and meaning usually translates into energy. Energy that can get you out of the procrastination trap. Completing tasks is of course still important to do but there are many ways to reach a given goal, and keeping the goal first helps in being adaptable to circumstances. If you insists on tasks being done your way in a stubborn manner, well, forget about things going well for long, especially if you have to deal with other people.

Yeah, goals... what goals?

Don't overstretch yourself on this. Otherwise, you'll recreate the same problem. Just work along the lines of what usually matters and needs to be balanced to keep you alive and well. Get a task that matter for each of the following generic lines of goals:
  • Personal
  • Interpersonal
  • Business

Do that daily and plan at the end of the day

At the end of the day, just sit down at your desk and write down a task for each of the three lines of goals. Stick to one for each in order to keep a balance. Not taking care of personal tasks will make you a dull person very fast.

Do that on paper

Yes, do that on paper. It is much easier to redo, scratch over, and throw into the bin if you aren't satisfied. Computers and smartphones just lead you to do that much too neatly, to the point that you end up being afraid to trash it and restart. Paper and Coffee

Write down the time investment you are ready to commit to for each task

For each of the three entries, write down the time investment (use hours and half-hours as the maximum granularity). Like: Personal: get a haircut, 1 hour. Interpersonal: talk about holidays with significant other, 2 hours. Business: get proposal written down and sent to prospect: 2.5 hours. This all amounts to 5.5 hours. Given all the usual interruptions and chores to fit into the remaining time, you'll be happy to achieve such stuff, especially if you repeat it day after day.

Cross off tasks when done

Don't underestimate the power of slashing a task with your pen. Physically.  There. Done. Works for me, may work for you!

What to do with all the other tasks? I don't want to forget them!

Depends on what they are. For business related tasks that are related to each other, I would recommend that they belong to some project or recurring thing to do. But what matters is not the tasks, but rather what you want to achieve. Check out my sorting out the mess with a PBS video on YouTube for a view on things. So, I am using tools to deal with the projects. Things like Mantis for bug and new features on projects, Project Pier for following up projects and milestones. But there is really close to nothing on tasks. I am interested in bugs, and solve them. So, I'll plan a business "bug kill session" for a given day. Or I'll plan something like progress towards milestone "X": release candidate done. Milestones are a great thing since they are really geared towards results, outputs, and not focused on inputs and tasks. This gives a feeling of moving towards a goal instead of being overwhelmed under a sea of tasks you can only drown into.

Get into action

Take Action Easy enough right? Start today. This evening, write according to the 3 tasks that matter a day principle. You'll come a long way in no time. And as an added benefit, sticking to three will force you to work on them. No excuses. And once you become great at this, you can always make the tasks more challenging, or add more to each line of objectives. But first, prove to yourself that you can do the simple thing. Simple things are quite powerful: you cannot hide and must do.        

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