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25 Jan

How you choose a task you have time for


Date: 2012-01-25 11:00 Comments: 0 st

When you have chosen to gather all your to-do-tasks in one and only one place, that is, in a single to-do-list, it will amount to a rather extensive list.

And it will keep getting longer if you make sure to formulate your to-do-tasks into things you can do in one go, rather than phrasing it so it turns into a project you need to progressively work on before you can tick it off as complete.

In spite of these inconveniences, I still strongly recommend you keep your to-do-list this way.

The options, either having your to-do-tasks scattered in several places or keeping it all in your head, are far worse.

But we lead lives where we constantly need to re-prioritize as new things we need to attend to show up. We need to set these “things” in relation to what we already have to do in order to make the right priorities.

Divide into categories

Having an extensive to-do-list is not a problem in itself, as long as you frequently make sure to divide it into categories.

In a previous Done! I wrote about the benefits of categorizing the to-do-list by context, that is, defining in what situation you need to be in to be able to complete the task (at work, at home, at the computer et c). It can also be of great value to categorize the tasks according to what project they belong to.

And guess what; here is another alternative for categorizing your tasks.

How long will it take?


If you would rather prefer doing so, you can also categorize the to-do-tasks by how much time they will take to complete.

If you have written the amount of time it will take to complete it next to every task, you will have the option to only display the tasks which you would have the time to do when you have a moment to spare. This way you are not constantly reminded of the tasks which are too extensive and which only make you feel stressed since you “still do not have time for them”.

If you feel like being able to quickly check a few items off your list after working a full day on a more extensive task, grab your list and look for the “5-minute-tasks”. If you have a long flight ahead of you when you know you will be left undisturbed, you can choose from the tasks which takes more than an hour to complete (and which are labeled with the context “at the computer”)

Do this

  1. Decide what time-intervals you want to use. Do not have too many different to choose from, but make a rough estimate of for instance 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour and 2 hours.
  2. Determine how you will tag every task with its estimated time-requirement in a simple and clear way.
  3. Go through your to-do-list and label all the tasks by how much time you think they will take to complete. If you think it seems like a lot of work to go through the entire list, never mind doing so and instead start with noting approximately how much time every new task you add to the list from now on will take. The only consequence of doing it this way is that you will have to try this method for a longer time period before you will be able to determine if it works for you or not.
  4. Notice the surprisingly large amount of tasks that most likely takes almost no time at all to do (provided you have defined your to-do-tasks as things you can do in more or less one go in the first place).
  5. When you have 30 minutes over, choose amongst the tasks which your have estimated to take 30 minutes or less to complete. If you have a digital to-do-list, filter the tasks according to estimated time requirement, by 30 minutes, 15 minutes or 5 minutes, so that you do not have to be reminded of the tasks which take longer than that to complete.

Choose the right task faster

If you make a note of how long every task is likely to take, you will be able to choose the right thing to do right now when you only have a few minutes to work with, easier and faster. You will not have to see and be reminded of all the tasks you do not have time for now anyway, and thereby feel less stressed.

It will be easier to choose a task which corresponds to what you feel like doing right now. Sometimes you want to feel as if you are making fast progress and sometimes you feel like delving into a challenging and more demanding task. You will obtain a more truthful perspective on what you actually have on your to-do-list. The tasks you have been postponing will finally get done easier since you now realize they would only take a few minutes of your time if you would just reserve those few minutes to complete the task.

It’s worth trying, don’t you think?

What is your way?

How do you make sure it is quick and easy to distinguish the right task to delve into from all the items on your to-do-list? Leave a comment below to let me and others know.

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