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25 Jan

How you choose a task you have time for


Datum: 2012-01-25 11:00

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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