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The "Georgette Heyer" Task Management System

The “Georgette Heyer” is a very simple method, an early version of which I described a few years back. I’ve been using the present version on and off and found it reasonably effective, but I don’t think I have ever described it in writing.

What the early version consisted of was either doing the first task or the last task on your list.

The major drawback with this was that if the first task was difficult then it encouraged a proliferation of trivia being entered at the end of the list.

However after writing about this first version I thought of a method of preventing this. This was that once you have done the last task, you have to ignore any newer tasks and work backwards from the task you have just done. You have to continue doing this until you do the first task. Once you’ve done the first task you chose between the first task and the actual last task.

Here’s an example:

Write Report on Project X
Check invoices
Sort filing system
Tidy desk

You are faced with the choice of tidying your desk or writing the Project X report, so you naturally chose the easier, which is tidy your desk. By the time you have done this a couple of other easy tasks have arrived on the list:

Write Report on Project X
Check invoices
Sort filing system
Tidy desk
Arrange paperclips
Sharpen pencils

You are not allowed to got to “Sharpen pencils”, but have to work backwards from “Tidy Desk”. So you are faced with a choice of the Project X report or sorting your filing system. Sorting your filing system is something you’ve been avoiding so you prefer to do the report. A few more tasks arrive in the meantime.

Write Report on Project X
Check invoices
Sort filing system
Tidy desk
Arrange paperclips
Sharpen pencils
Research possible venues for sales conference
Tax return
Check staff meeting minutes

This time, because you’ve now actioned the first task, the choice is between email and the staff meeting minutes.

A few things to note about this system:

  1. You should only put things on the list which you are ready and prepared to do now. Even regularly recurring tasks should only be re-entered when they are ready to be done again.
  2. By working backwards from the end of the list and forwards from the beginning of the list, you will fairly quickly reach even the most difficult task.  It is possible, particularly with a very difficult task, that the first task on the list may also be the one worked back to from the end of the list. If this happens, then there is no choice - that task must be done.
  3. Don’t put time-specific tasks on the list.
  4. The rule “If it needs to be done now, do it” applies.
  5. If you take some action on a task and re-enter at the end of the list, then the rule “You can’t do the same task again without doing another task first”  applies. You then chose between the first task and the last but one task.


Why “Georgette Heyer”? It’s getting too difficult to find descriptive names for all the time/task management systems appearing on this blog, so I’ve decided that in future I will call new systems after the English Wikipedia featured article of the day.

Reader Comments (5)

I love your new rule for naming systems. :-)
October 29, 2013 at 20:06 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Was this originally described as The Procrastiation Buster Improved?
October 29, 2013 at 20:08 | Registered CommenterCaibre65
Thank you. Yes, it was. Well traced!

I'll amend the blog post to show the link.
October 29, 2013 at 22:16 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Wow. This really gets into the nitty gritty of it all eh

I appreciate the FV. For me this method is a little too detailed
Prefer to build the discipline to just do it.
More universal skill, strength.
October 30, 2013 at 9:27 | Unregistered CommenterConnorBryant
Very simple and quite easy-understandable example of this particular management system.
February 10, 2014 at 14:52 | Unregistered CommenterRysiu Valdymo

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