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Think big and act small. Leslie Koch
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High Intensity To Do List

My absence over the last couple of days has had nothing to do with a failure of the Resistance Principle. I have simply been in bed with an unpleasant, but fortunately brief, touch of the flu. That's put me a day behind on my work at a time when I have several important deadlines coming up.

I had the interesting experience of being switched by the Resistance Principle this morning to another method of working. This is an intense method that I keep in reserve for when I have a lot of work which I have to get through in a relatively short time.

This technique is based on the one of the methods I describe in Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play of working in bursts of continually increasing length. I start with a burst of five minutes and then increase it by five minutes each time, so that the progression goes 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 minutes and so on for as long as it takes to finish the task. By the time one has got as far as completing a burst of 40 minutes, one has had three hours total exposure to the task - in a very concentrated format.

This is quite a sledgehammer approach to take to a task. There are few tasks, however difficult or unpleasant, which won't succumb to this technique. I am of course talking about office-based tasks. I don't imagine one would gain very much by using burst to do tasks like shopping, digging a ditch, carrying out a site inspection or going for a run. Actually come to think of it going for a run in bursts might work quite well!

As an example, I am now in the middle of my second burst on this blog entry. Having had a previous five minute burst (which didn't leave much time for writing after deciding on the subject, opening the word processor, etc, etc), I am now half-way through a ten-minute burst. I will continue burst by burst until the entry is finished. Though in this case I doubt whether I will need more than three or four bursts.

In the gaps I do another task using the same burst technique. Currently it is clearing my in-tray of paper. Since it hasn't been cleared for two days, there's a fair amount in it. So it too will be ground down bit by bit by the burst technique.

To decide which two tasks to alternate between, I'm using an interesting variation on the standard To Do list. What I have is an open-ended list to which I'm adding tasks as they arrive. Then I alternately take the first task and the last task from the list. Of course once I've started a task I stick with it until it is finished.

This is an unusual mixture of FIFO (first in, first out) and LIFO (last in, first out). It means that stuff that needs dealing with quickly gets done, while the stuff that tends to sink to the bottom of a list gets done too. However fast or slow one progresses through the list, one can be sure that it will all get done.

This is not a method that I would normally use for longer than a few days at a time. It is simply too high intensity. It also lacks the very important check that the "Do It Tomorrow" method gives about balancing one day's incoming work with the next day's outgoing work. Of course there is nothing at all to stop one from using the burst method with the Will Do list from "Do It Tomorrow". That can be very effective on days when you find your attention is flagging.

Reader Comments (2)

I like it! I have had the flu for the last two days as well, and now am needing to catch up on everything. Having run two marathons I have tried the 5 min, 10 min etc segments running and it is a good way of building up endurance.

January 16, 2007 at 17:52 | Unregistered CommenterWendy
Hope you are feeling better now. I must say I find it so useful to hear how you actually use the system day to day - with real life things like getting flu. I am really looking forward to the upcoming seminars where I hope we'll get/share more insights.
January 16, 2007 at 19:48 | Unregistered CommenterCharles

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