When I have a long list of to-do’s, there is a technique I use on the tougher ones that makes them easier. I call it taxi to takeoff.
I have found that the number one reason we struggle with tasks is that they are actually projects, that we TREAT like tasks. So what’s the difference between a project and a task? The easiest way to answer that question is with another question: How do you eat an elephant?
A while back I described how to organize your to-do’s by comparing them to newspaper headlines. Today I want to share an actual model of what that might look like. To summarize, the front page of a newspaper is made up of a series of short compelling headlines. Each headline may have a short blurb, but it always has a connecter to the full story inside. Much of the time, what piles up on our desks are full stories.
There is a time to sort-and-purge clutter and a time to act on your to-do’s. It’s counter-productive to mix the sorting with the acting. To truly understand why these two things are incompatible, it is first important to recognize the difference between getting organized and staying organized. It’s not unlike the difference between cooking a meal and eating it. It just works better to eat a meal after it is fully cooked
Ever wonder what a “tickler file” is? It’s a collection of 43 labeled folders, 31 days and 12 months, that helps you organize time-sensitive documents. It has been around in various formats since the early 20th century, but has probably been most notably covered in David Allen’s 2001 classic, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity. To me the most valuable message from Allen’s book was,
“Out Where I Can See It” is an understandable need, but the problem is if everything is important, then nothing is important. If the front page of a newspaper appeared solid gray with unbroken text, you probably wouldn’t bother with it. It’s too overwhelming. Not only would it take time to prioritize the most important articles, it would take time just to see them!