I’m trying an experiment in task management. It comes from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done and is managed by a software program called Things. It’s called the “Next” list.
The Problem: Unforeseen Circumstances
Perhaps you’ve been in the following situation:
You’re a busy person, trying to get everything done on today’s to do list . . . but then something comes up. You know: the cat has to be taken to the emergency vet . . . or the engine on your car goes out . . . or an important family situation arises. It’s inevitable. Something always comes up, distracting you from the commitments you made for today.
For a long time, I tried to keep a daily to do list but with no success. Despite my best efforts, something always had to be pushed to tomorrow. I knew I had to find a solution to get caught up and find a better way of getting things done.
The Solution: The Next List
When reading in David Allen’s book which outlines the widely popular GTD method for productivity, he talks about something called the “Next” list. It’s a list where you simply put what you have to do next. The “Next” list is comprised of everything you have yet to do, but don’t have to do on a specific day.
The next list doesn’t belong on a calendar!
To further explain this, it’s better to think of the next list as something that isn’t confined to certain days, weeks, or years. It’s an ongoing list of things that you need to get done.
The calendar is a place of “hard landscape” where your appointments should exist. These are commitments that you’ve made to other people, not yourself. For example, you might have your day job where you work 9 to 5. This should be on your calendar. But let’s say you have to get a project done that has no definite due date . . . this should be on your next list.
The next list might have to be split into separate lists.
Many people will have one next list from which they draw their next actions. But sometimes this becomes too cluttered and disorganized. If that’s the case for you, you might consider splitting the next list into a few separate lists based on:
- Priority. Mostly instinctual, you’ll have to follow your gut feeling on what is most appropriate to do next. Try the standard high, medium, and low categorizations but don’t adhere to them strictly as priorities can change at a moment’s notice.
- Area of responsibility. You might have things that need to get done while on the phone, at work, or at home. Whatever your areas of responsibility might be, create “next” lists based on those areas so you can pinpoint what you need to be doing in relation to where you are.
A Suggested Read
Bob, the owner of ChristianPF.com has written an excellent article on How To Run A Home Based Business. In it, he discusses how to be your own boss and better your time management skills.
A few key points from his article include:
- Spend half a day being “the boss” and working out what you will do the rest of the week. This fits very nicely with the idea of a weekly review (from GTD). In doing this, you confirm with yourself what needs to get done and what doesn’t.
- Make sure business doesn’t run your life. This is a huge one. Many people aren’t careful when they are scheduling out their day and find that the business they thought would lead to freedom actually leads to bondage.
- Focus on the most important things, not just the urgent. Wow. There is a distinction here if you think about it! How many times do we get caught in an urgent cycle and forget to get the more important things done for our long term success?
I have a lot more to learn: from David Allen, from Bob, and from you, the readers!
Meet me in the comments and let’s discuss how to be more successful in our lives!