In a comment I wrote:
“I’ve experimented with one day dismissal a lot. In fact the system I’m using at the moment, which is proving incredibly effective, is a one day dismissal system.
“My tip would be to forget the bit about being catch-all as well. I feed each day’s sheet through the shredder as soon as the day is over. The effect on one’s brain is quite remarkable.”
“Could you elaborate on this a bit more? I am intrigued.”
What is the effect of feeding each day’s sheet through a shredder?
First of all, it brings about a sense of completion. The next day starts with a clean sheet with nothing left over from the day before. Whatever work you were engaged in has to be re-created.
Your mind is not however re-creating the work from scratch. During each day paths in the brain are either strengthened, amended or abandoned. This means that one’s work is always alive, relevant and creative.
This is a contrast to working off an old list, where creativity consists only in writing down yet more tasks on the list without actually taking action on them.
Let’s compare the thinking and action that goes with “catch all” and “no list” methods, which are the two extremes of continuing and one-day lists.
The simplest type of catch-all system is where you just have an open list of tasks and circulate through it, doing the tasks that feel ready to do. At the beginning of each day what you are presented with is usually a long list which has been built up over a period of time, a matter of days, weeks or in some cases even months. At some stage you thought of a task and wrote it on the list. It may get done quickly, but a large number of these tasks will hang around on the list for days.
What your mind therefore has to do is to choose between anything up to 100 or more tasks - all of which you thought were a good idea at some stage in the past. You can only do one of these tasks at a time and very likely while you are doing that task even more are being added.
Your main motivation is to get rid of the tasks on the list. This of course can never actually be done so you always end the day with much the same number of tasks as you began it - frequently more. Because you have such a large number of tasks to choose from your focus is poor and it’s difficult to build up good routines.
The simplest form of no-list system is just to write down the next thing you are going to do before you do it. The act of writing down the next action forces you to make a conscious decision about what to do, rather than just drift into something.
Your mind has no list to rely on, so what sort of tasks is it going to choose? It will probably come up with one of the following;
- The next task in an established routine
- Something that is on your mind because you are currently working on it
- A project you have previously decided will be your main focus for the day
- An urgent project or task
- Something which is causing you concern because it is overdue or in danger of becoming so
- Something you make a conscious decision to do because you want to do it
Note that all these things relate to what matters at the moment. Your concern is with what you are actually involved in. At the end of the day you will have filled the day with stuff that is actually relevant and is within your capabilities to do in the time available.
Your brain therefore will be concentrated on the immediate reality of what is in your life, rather than diffused over a vast sea of possibilies, most of which will never happen.