Perhaps the thing I’ve found most difficult to get right in designing the best possible no list system is the question of how long to hang on to re-entered tasks.
My answers have at various times included the following:
- Have no re-entered tasks at all.
- Re-enter a task only if there is current work still outstanding on it.
- Re-enter a task if you expect it to be needed again the same day.
- Re-enter all tasks regardless of whether they are going to be used again.
I’ve chopped and changed systems to fit one or other of these, but none have proved entirely satisfactory. At one extreme, a lot of tasks are started but don’t get worked on to completion. At the other, there’s a long tail of re-entered tasks to plough through.
And what does one do about open-ended tasks like reading books? Reading a stated number of chapters or reading for a set time are too rigid for my liking.
How to handle these re-entered tasks is a really important question because, you will recall, my intention is not to do anything but to do everything!
I had a flash of light recently about this. If, I asked myself, a task can only get onto the list by being done, then perhaps it should only be able to get off the list by not being done.
So I’ve added the following rules to the May 9 System:
- Whenever a task on the list has been worked on it must be re-entered, whether or not it is going to be needed again.
- There is no compulsion to work on any re-entered task.
- When you come to a re-entered task and for any reason do not work on it, that task is deleted.
These rules involve a little bit more re-writing than before, but they seem to have solved the problem. The question of how long to keep a task on the list now boils down to the simple principle: “Work on a task and it’s on the list; don’t work on a task and it’s off the list”.