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There’s no inherent structure to work. Work has no inherent unit. We make units; we make tasks, and projects, and milestones, and goals. But nothing about those is inherent in the nature of work. Tiago Forte
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« Testing the New System - Update | Main | Productive v. Unproductive »
Friday
Mar042016

Most Popular Article This Week

Overcommitment and the Catch-All List

… You get everything on your mind down on paper so you no longer have the worry of trying to remember it all. There is however a problem with this. The work does not stop arriving just because you have written it all down. In fact writing it all down may make it less likely that you will get everything done, rather than more…

Reader Comments (5)

I'm not sure what difference it makes if "The work does not stop arriving" -- all the more reason to write it down! I have been trying Mark's 5-item list approach as presented in his latest book. At first I loved the simplicity of it and found it motivating. But other things that needed to get done kept arriving, and I didn't know what to do with them with this system. In addition, I am irresistably drawn to batching the various items that need to be done. So my five-item list has grown to a five-category list, with a dozen or so items listed on it that need to be done, all batched by category. Now when something else arrives needing to be done, I just add it to one of the categories. This more inclusive approach works much better, at least for me.
March 5, 2016 at 0:37 | Unregistered CommenterTom
Tom:

In fact almost any system will work provided that you have no more work coming in than you can do. And almost any system will fail to work if you do have more work coming in than you can do.

The advantage of a "no list" system is that you cannot put more on the list than you can do. I've nothing against batching, but it won't actually help you to get more done. Sooner or later it will fail in exactly the same way because you won't be able to keep up with the batches. All you will end up with having is five "catch-all" lists in place of one.

Unless of course you do something about having more work than you can handle. Or if you are already in the fortunate position of having a balanced workload then it will work fine.
March 5, 2016 at 9:34 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thank you for your response, Mark. You wrote:
'The advantage of a "no list" system is that you cannot put more on the list than you can do.'
1) Why do you call it a "no list system" when, in the same breath, you refer to "the list"?
2) What is to be done with the additional tasks that roll in after one has established the work to be done for that day? Do you add them to some other list? Surely you don't simply trust your memory.
You wrote: 'I've nothing against batching, but it won't actually help you to get more done.'
I don't batch to "get more done," but simply to make easier doing what needs to be done.
March 5, 2016 at 19:01 | Unregistered CommenterTom
"... You get everything on your mind down on paper so you no longer have the worry of trying to remember it all."

So true! Hence the great value of a catch-all list. But! as Mark says,

"There is however a problem with this.... writing it all down may make it less likely that you will get everything done, rather than more…"

So, there IS value in that catch-all list, but, as Mark is fond of pointing out, it can also work against us. So, what's to be done? I think I may have hit on the answer, or AN answer:

Keep that catch-all list, But Don't Work Off Of It. Use one of those shorter lists that Mark also recommends, consisting of 3 to 5 items. Work off the shorter list, but refer to the catch-all list now and then, lest something fall through the cracks. Sounds good in theory, no? Now to put it to the test, starting today.
March 5, 2016 at 20:48 | Unregistered CommenterTom
Tom:

<< Why do you call it a "no list system" when, in the same breath, you refer to "the list"? >>

http://markforster.squarespace.com/blog/2016/2/12/what-is-a-no-list-system.html
March 5, 2016 at 23:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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