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Weeding the Task Diary

One of the problems with any time management system is that there is a tendency for the list of actions to expand until it becomes too large to be handled. This is because many of the tasks that you engage in result in your thinking of several others. For example, you might have a task for today “Investigate Program X”. That is naturally going to result in several further actions. Or you carry out the “next action” for some project, and that naturally leads you on to a further action with the same project. Although many tasks are one-offs without further action needed, they are outweighed by the tasks that lead on to further action or actions. This is just as true of the Task Diary in Do It Tomorrow as it is of any to do list.

You may also have random thoughts and ideas during the day which don’t arise out of other tasks. The best thing to do with these is to put them in the Task Diary to “think about”.

The result of all this is that the daily list of tasks in theTask Diary expands until it is no longer possible to get through it. When this happens some people try to deal with the problem by spreading the some of the tasks over the next few days. This is not a good idea as all it achieves is to disguise the fact that you now have more tasks than you can handle.

Although the “long stop” in DIT is the auditing procedure, it is much better to keep your Task Diary pruned so that you rarely or never need to go through this procedure.

A simple principle can achieve this:

Just because you have written something in the Task Diary doesn’t mean you have to do it.

It is a very good idea when you draw the line to close tomorrow’s list to go through the items and ruthlessly weed them of all items which are not 100 per cent necessary to your chosen focus. Everything that will disperse your focus or lead you off into sidetracks must go.

Doing this before you start on the list rather than after you are failing to get through it will strengthen your sense of achievement and focus rather than induce a sense of failure.

So to sum up:

By all means add everything you think of during the day to your Task Diary for tomorrow, but weed it thoroughly before you commit to actually doing it.

Related Discussions:

Task Diary

Task Diary and Spreading Out Tasks over the Week

Tasks That Do Not Need to Be Done This Week But Later…?

Related Article:

The Key to Keeping Your Work Focused

Reader Comments (3)

What a great idea. It's all too easy, just because you've written it down, to think you have to do a task without checking it out first to make sure it's really necessary.

I really like the idea of weeding the task diary BEFORE carrying out the tasks as it takes away any guilt or negative feelings that come from not completing a day's work. Even if, on closer inspection, you decide the task(s) left undone don't actually need to be done (that day or perhaps ever) it doesn't feel anywhere near as good as it would have had they been crossed off before the day started.

Thanks for this, it's a really useful post.
March 15, 2008 at 17:37 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I have noticed a considerable difference when I just spend ten or fifteen minutes last thing at night, going over what I am going to do the following day. I never really thought of it as weeding the task diary but that in essence is what I do.

If I start the day without going through things the night before, for example if I fall asleep early, go out etc. As a whole I just feel less in control the next day.

I wonder if getting this overview, weeding out the tasks that don't fit, has some sort of psychological or subconscious undertones. In other words I wonder if your mind works as you sleep. Because I certainly feel ready to move when I perform this routine, in contrast to being very slow starting when I miss it for whatever reason.

All the best

March 20, 2008 at 11:35 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Wynn
Hi, Steve

I have often noted how much the last thing we pay attention to before going to bed affects the way we behave when we get up in the morning. In fact it is usually true to say that what sort of day you are going to have today was decided yesterday evening.

Hmmm... I might write a posting about that!
March 26, 2008 at 10:49 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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