For too long now, I’ve been attacking my to-do list in a rather sporadic way. RememberTheMilk.com is a wonderfully flexible way of storing and categorising a task list, and given how mobile I am the web-access is great. The idea that on my own I would be able to remember all of the myriad of different things that I need to do on a regular basis to keep the business operating smoothly has long since been discarded as a pipe dream. Tax returns, bills, server maintenance, paperwork, and that’s not even counting the one off tasks which I can’t do right away but can’t afford to forget.
My problem, as is pretty typical for a task tracking system, is that it needs to be a matter of habit to check my task list every day. Which I do. But the very act of having a task list is by definition a triage action for managing things I need to do, and so if I’m not tackling the tasks quickly enough then they start to accumulate. If my list of due tasks is clear, then it’s fine, because I then look ahead, see what’s coming and act on it in advance. But every task has it’s own priority level – 1 means ‘can’t afford to let it slip’, 2 is ‘must do, but the world won’t end if it is delayed a little’, and 3 is ‘needs done when you get a chance’. So when time is pressing, the priority 3 items get left, and so my overdue tasks list is no longer clean and empty, but now has an item lurking there, untouched.
Once that psychologically important barrier is breached, then it’s oh so very much easier to let the next item on the overdue list slip as well. After all, I know I’ve fallen behind, but it’s okay because they’re all low priority. Before too long, the overdue list has a dozen items, and I’m no longer tackling tasks in advance, I’m just picking off the important ones when they appear on the overdue list. Some of the items on there are 2 months overdue, but even though they’re low priority, I don’t want to just change their due date to the future. That would be hiding from the problem – they are two months past due, and I should really tackle them.
And so, since I’m down here in Reading this weekend, and I’ve already done most of a day on our Evolution work, I’ve taken some time and made a concerted effort to tackle every last item on the list, even the low priority ones. Including the last one – “write blog entry”.