Those of you who have experienced the Smart Work training will know that I advocate and use a date-activated task management system. This simply means I forward schedule my tasks in lists for today, tomorrow, this week, next week and so on, and I do this all with minimal fuss in MS Outlook. This works well for me most of the time and enables me to manage the things I need to do in a proactive way, rather than leaving things until they become urgent.
But every now and then I have a particularly busy period with training delivery or travel, and my ‘Today’ task list begins to pile up, often with lots of red, overdue tasks. When this happens, it can feel like a bit of a weight on my shoulders, which stops me from functioning as effectively as I should. So, this is what I do.
I devote some time to getting on top of my task list. This does not mean that I plough through it trying to get as many things done as I can. It means I make decisions. I run my task list through the 4D filter which many of you would be familiar with when managing incoming emails and communications. I review my task list and work out which ones I can Dump, Divert and Decide When, leaving just the ones that I feel I need to do today (Do it Now).
Looking at the tasks that have piled up in my list, I work out if I can kill any of them because they are not a priority anymore, they are not relevant anymore, or they have been completed in some way.
I then work out which ones I could divert away from myself. Which ones should I delegate to get them moving? Which should I push back and negotiate with others? It is amazing how many things creep into my list that on reflection are not actually the best use of my time. I just become a bottleneck for this work, which serves nobody.
I then review what can be put off until another date because they are not pressing. I often use next week or next month as ‘horizons’ that I reschedule non-critical tasks over. This ensure I don’t forget them, but I don’t have to think about them now.
Do it Now
Finally, I’m left with the things that I feel are a good use of my time today. This process often culls a task list of 20-30 tasks down to six or eight critical priorities. It feels like I have taken a weight off my shoulders, and I am better able to get what I need to do done.
So, if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by your task list, take a few minutes to re-evaluate and make some decisions.