So much on your to do list and so little time. It does not have to be that way.
Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits brought us the Urgent vs Important matrix. David Allen’s Getting Things Done gave us the liberating in-box management tactics.
Today, I bring you the breakthrough techniques of clearing your mind and clearing your list based on context to target your next action for results.
Master To Do List
David Allen and Stephen Covey and many others advocate a master to do list. A single location for keeping all your to do items. This master to do list is to help you keep your mind clear to focus on the important tasks of each day. There is no reason to clutter your mind or your life with all the stuff you need to do. The answer is to put it on to the master to do list in your system. Once on your master list you don’t need to think about it and it can appear when you need it. (That is if your system is working- more on that in a bit.)
Like many of you, I use technology tools to keep my master list. Tools like Toodledo, Nozebe and Remember the Milk let us maintain our master list and filter it into manageable subsists. You and I keep our master to do list, our life’s to do list with everything we need on it. This list is on our phones. It is available to us at any time. I pull up my list where I am in my current context. At my fingertips is the list of prioritized tasks I need to get to. The system works. For many of us, our master list has became a monster!
Master Your To Do List
Are you scared? Maybe you should be! You have invited a monster into your house. Your master to do list is that monster and you should be frightened. I know, I’ve been worried for weeks. Yes… My monster is smothering me. I’m Buried. You? Yes? When your master to do list hovers between 2 and 3 hundred tasks you’ll wake up one day realizing there is no way it will ever get “finished”. You may feel like you are sitting in the shadow of an ominous monster. Smothered, comes to mind.
I’ve been doing what I was taught. I’ve done it religiously for years. Keep a master list. Clear your mind. Don’t loose a thing. Well, maybe it is time I lost something. Maybe I’ll accidentally delete my entire list! What will you do?
Yes, what we’ve been taught has worked. Capture the to do items. Put them on the list. Conquer each item at the most appropriate time and place. Urgent – do it now! Important? Give it a place to go and go on. Take care of it in context. Really?
Next Actionable To Do List Item
I’m suggesting two ways to manage the pressures presented by your monster master to do list.
- Do as you are taught. (David and Stephen would be proud.)
- Ignore the master to do list with a simple single sheet system.
- Maybe a combination of both.
Do as we are taught but you and I may have ignored. At any given moment in time there is really only one thing you can do. ONE. David Allen suggest it is the “Next Actionable” item on your list for your current context and energy. This is great. My tool lets me identify that item. So off to work I go. There is no overwhelm. Just strategic efforts at getting done what matters most and pruning away what really does not matter.
Here is how I do it in ToodleDo. (You’ll want a tool that can do this if you subscribe to the mind dump to a master list concept.) I use Status: Next Action, Priority: High, Starred, Important tags and Context to keep the most relevant items of my massive master list before me in the moment I need it.
For me, my list only consists of the things I am working on that matter most and/or are doable where I sit in the world at that moment. Pretty easy. It usually comes down to a single item or two at any given moment. So it is a huge list with focused attention on a single item doable at that time. Feels pretty good.