quick task tips

August 4, 2008

Yesterday, I looked at an item in OmniFocus, and I wasn’t sure what it meant. After the three minutes or so it took me to sort it out, I decided it was time to revisit the to-do guidelines I scratched out a few years ago. I thought I’d post them here as a helpful summary for others. Most of these originate out of Getting Things Done, by David Allen.

  • Everything on your list should be a single task that can be completed and checked off. This can be hard to do sometimes, but break the larger projects down into single tasks. Don’t put down “Buy gas for mower and cut grass”. Separate it into two tasks.
  • Don’t put broad general items on your to-do list. If something can’t be “completed” then it isn’t a to-do…it’s a project. If you think of something that is going to take several steps, than create a task to make a project out of it. In other words, create a task to break it down into doable steps.
  • Write your tasks as if someone else was going to be completing them. This will help you write them with enough clarity and information that you can remember what you are actually supposed to do when you read them days or weeks later. (I found this tip a few months ago on another blog, but I can’t remember where. If it was you, please let me know so I can give you credit.)
  • Store information along with where you will need it. If you get an email with directions to an appointment, cut and paste that info in the notes section on your calendar. If you get an email with instructions on something you need to do, paste it in the notes in your task program. (OmniFocus’ capture tools make this easy…iCal, not so much.)
  • Use start dates on tasks so you don’t have to see them until they are relevant. I have a utopian dream of not using due dates at all, but only start dates…but that’s for another post.
  • Don’t let anything go overdue! Sometimes you don’t get things done by the due date you assigned yourself, but change the due dates to current dates. Don’t fill your task list with a bunch of red overdue items or your due dates won’t be meaningful anymore.
  • Follow the two minute rule. if you run across something that can be done in two minutes or less, do it. Get it done and get it out of your mind. Don’t clutter up your list, or your mind with it. One of the greatest enemies of productivity is how often we have to revisit things because we didn’t take care of them the first time.
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