I should know better than to talk myself into a new experiment just as I’m getting back into the swing of a well-established system - but here goes!
In my recent blog entry Inspiration from the BBC I talked about whether it was possible to make a time management system out of the 7-30-7 pattern which the BBC iPlayer uses for timing out downloadable TV programmes.
Anyway I’ve decided that it is. And, as always, the first person who gets experimented on is myself. So if there’s a long gap in blog postings, you will know that it hasn’t worked!
I’m going to continue to keep a standard Will Do list for things like Email, Paper, Voicemail, Daily Tasks, etc. I will also be continuing to use the Task Diary for follow-ups and tasks that relate to specific dates. But for all other tasks I’m going to use the “BBC” system. This is how it will work:
I will be using three lists:
- Possible Tasks
- Probable Tasks
- Active Tasks
Possible Tasks. Every task that I consider taking on has first to be written down on this list. There is no need to assess tasks at this stage. The tasks on this list time out after seven days if they haven’t been transferred to the list of Probable Tasks.
Probable Tasks. When I decide that a task on the Possible list is feasible, I transfer it to the next list: Probable Tasks. This list times out after 30 days, though to make it easier to keep track I will make it a calendar month rather than exactly 30 days.
Active Tasks. Before any task can be actioned it must be transferred to the Active Task list. Tasks on this list time out after seven days.
What do I see as the advantages of doing things this way? I hope that it will prove the solution to a problem which any list based system is prone to, and that is the fact that lists tend to expand uncontrollably. Even with the Task Diary in the Do It Tomorrow system, there is a tendency for each day’s list to be longer than the day before until it is impossible to keep up. DIT solves this problem by insisting on an audit when this happens. What I am hoping is that the “BBC” system will tackle this automatically. There is a three stage process of sifting tasks. It’s impossible for the list to grow to unmanageable size because of the timing-out procedure.
Another great advantage is that there is no need to assess tasks when writing them down initially. The sifting process will deal with this. This means that any passing thought or impulse can be written down. This may well have the additional effect of reducing distractions too.
Anyway this afternoon I started off the system by drawing up a Possible Tasks list which consisted of all the tasks in my Task Diary, plus any others that came immediately to mind. There were 60 tasks on this list (to which I have subsequently added four more).
Then I did my first “download” of 30 items from these “possibles” onto a Probable Tasks list. And finally I put 10 of the “probables” onto the Active List - writing this blog entry was one. I have already completed 5 of these tasks, and have nearly completed the 6th. Time to make a few more active, I think.
I have to say that my first impression is that this could work very well. I won’t really be able to tell until the first week is up and I start timing out some tasks. The crucial factor will be whether it’s the right tasks that get timed out!