Does the sight of your task list cause you to stress? Seeing everything you "should" be doing can be overwhelming, especially if you're using due dates and have a page full of red, overdue tasks. Every time you complete a task, you then have to decide what to do next. Doing this throughout the day can contribute to decision fatigue.
First thing in the morning (or preferably the night before), pick the top three tasks you would like to get done and write them down somewhere outside your main task application.
- Choose tasks that will move your projects and goals forward.
- Choose tasks that fit into the time you have available.
Now close your task list application and get to work! You have just reduced the number of decisions you need to make throughout the day.
When you shut down for the day, open your main task list and mark those tasks as complete. Add any new tasks that have come up during the day. And while you are at it, go ahead and pick the top three tasks for tomorrow.
You may need a task application to manage all of your tasks on your plate, but that does not mean you need to live in this application all day long.
What about the little things?
The top three tasks for the day should be the big tasks that will move your projects and goals forward. What about those small admin tasks, like email and paperwork? Schedule a block of time once a day (or as often as needed) to work on these smaller tasks. Batching them together will make a huge difference.
What if I finish all three tasks?
Did you finish your 3 tasks? Great! Now either work on some administrative tasks or pick another big task if you are up for it. The purpose of the three tasks is to help you focus, not to limit your work.
Why Three Tasks?
3 is simply a manageable number. It really depends on the type of work you do. If your tasks take several hours, you may want to drop them down to 1 or 2. If your tasks are generally small, you may want 6-10 tasks. It depends on what you can realistically fit into your day without overdoing it. Again, the purpose is to help you to focus.
What if other things come up?
When other things come up, write them down. Or, if your task management tool allows it, just dump the new task into your inbox. When you open your task list to make updates, you can move them to where they belong.
🌐 Further Reading
The Ivy Lee Method by James Clear - The Ivy Lee method involves picking the 6 most important things you want to accomplish and sort them in order of importance. Then start working on them one at a time.
High-leverage activities: how to identify your energy multipliers by Anne-Laure Le Cunff - How to focus your time and energy on high-leverage activities.