Tonight, I Burned Through My Task List

I have a confession to make: My task list has been growing in the last few weeks and I have been ignoring more than a few items.

I am huge devotee of David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. In hopes to eschew procrastination and make good on my commitments I dedicate myself to the power of the list. In the past few weeks, the list hasn't been too powerful, and I fell into the I'm too stressed right now trap.

One of my biggest problems is that I can avoid a myriad of small and important tasks in favor of significantly larger (usually programming) tasks. Build out a giant node scraper that takes three weeks: got it. Do seven follow-up emails, call your bank, call your mom, analyze a property, write up a profit and loss statement, categorize expenses for the the month, finish my pending FILMCORE review: that's a bigger ask.

If I don't care about any of these tasks, then it's fine for me to ignore them. Better yet, I should just remove them from my list and get rid of the noise.

If, on the other hand, they are actually important, then I will succumb to death by 1000 cuts. We all have to pay attention to the little things. Their sum may amount to more than all the focus I have given to my One Thing.

It's Okay to Prune

First, it's important to recognize that not everything on your list is important. One sunny day it may have appeared so, but things have changed. Prune when items on your list lose their relevance. Pruning is different from the snooze button phenomenon: delaying a task indefinitely. When you prune your list, you confidently decide that a task is no longer important.

I try to recognize a few of my personal weaknesses in the process. For one, I tend to assume I have more free-time or computer time than I actually do. As such, I am susceptible to many "Set up dinner & drinks with..." x5 and "Start participating in this online community..." x10. These tasks are quicker to die when I wake up and realize three days later that time is my most valuable commodity.

Snooze Button

What's with that task you have been postponing indefinitely? We all have a few of these. It's usually one of three reasons why this task does not get done:

1) It's too difficult.,
2) The potential benefit is too far away, it's not needed immediately.
3) I'm scared, too much risk.

In the case of #1, sit down, break it up. In the case of #2, hit the snooze button. Choose a remote date that makes sense. Give yourself some margin when it arrives.

In the case of #3: do it first thing in the morning. You'll be fresh, ready to tackle the world, and still have a full day of lower risk activities ahead of you.


Sometimes you'll be lucky enough to have a night where your self-control and circumstances confine you to your desk chair. Make sure to disallow yourself from using any social networks or Youtube in the process. Momentum can help with this.

This week I managed to do it armed with a full fridge of Polish Beers and White IPAs on sale in Sunnyside.

In the end. Make sure your task list is actually helping and not creating and endless distraction zone. Sometimes it's hard to remedy the wisdom of David Allen (Getting Things Done) and Gary Keller (The One Thing) into the same lifestyle. I am convinced they are both important, and a little moderation may be the key to the system.

Ever have trouble with your task list? It's hard to conquer the little things, but it's where big impacts are made, in accumulation.