One of the things I find almost as sexy as a double-date ending up in a threesome is to be able to keep all my tasks on track. I found that implementing the simple GTD process of collecting, processing, and prioritizing has been a life-saver, I described this in previous posts.

But I just realised a huge improvement to the process of collecting and keeping tasks lists thus clearing your inboxes, it’s not enough.

The real breakthrough comes when you see the process completely transparently.

It’s not about following rules of making tasks or archiving.

It’s about processing everything that is captured and you do it once. Ask for every stuff you get (emails, faxes, phones, someone talking, SMS’es, papers or stuff you read –  everything) – and ask yourself this question: Does it contain any actions? If yes, then find out if you need to do it today or not. You should not have more than a 3-4 things to to at any given day. Or else you will postpone it. Of course you record other tasks that you can do once those 3-4 important tasks are done. These normal priority tasks will be done when you’ve time.

All the stuff you need to do at a certain time in the future should go into your calendar. You review your daily tasks, and your calendar atleast 3 times a day. One in the morning, one in noon and one in the evening. During which, if you’ve time, look at the normal priority tasks.

Stuff that are not actionable can be thrown, or put in an archive in case you need it later. Some actionable items will be delegated (performed by others) but you still have to track them. If you have a group of tasks, it becomes a project. It’s not neccessary to track all the steps now, only track the next actions and write them in a clear language such as “book hotel”. The project could be “P: Go on vacation to Cuba”. It is more vague. Notice the P: in advance, it lets you sort on your projects, those are reviewed once a week.

What I found especially is that

  • Most people work overtime because they have too much to do, tasks are not being performed, and clients are constantly requesting stuff that never gets done.
  • People feel bad about not being able to deliver what they promised.
  • Even people who use a task-list suddenly find the list becomes useless, because the tasks become too many and they end up not trusting the list, keeping email in their inbox, and falling back to ’emergency mode’ which is to be constantly behind.
  • People do not realise how easy this is to fix.

The only solution is:

  • Stop and think: Does what I just received contain anything actionable? If so, think in clear short sentences that fully describe the shortest easiest step that can be done toward fulfilling that expected “thing to be done” to move the task towards its final goal.

If you do this for every bit of information you get in, you can empty your head and focus only on what is important.

Of 100 people, I estimate only 2 people possess the skills to really understand what this means, since it is not natural to break information down into tasks and separate content and action. It is a skill that most people have to learn the hard way.