31 Days to GTD for Homemakers will spend the month of October focusing on reducing stress and creating effective solutions to better manage realities of life at home. Mothers are the shapers of home atmosphere and home culture; keeping the mundane details under control allows us to direct our attention to what matters.
Previous Post: The Types of Lists to Keep
Managing Tasks on the Fly
Many productivity or time management strategies involve deciding what your priorities are and ranking your tasks according to your priority. However, in Getting Things Done David Allen challenges that advice:
You shouldn’t bother to create some external structuring of the priorities on your lists that you’ll then have to rearrange or rewrite as things change. Attempting to impose such scaffolding has been a big source of frustration in many people’s organizing. You’ll be prioritizing more intuitively as you see the whole list, against quite a number of shifting variables.
I think this advice works well with a mother’s lifestyle. After all, when thinking about the big picture, we’d hardly ever put “Wash the dishes” as a high-priority task. Yet it does need to be done. Allen’s method lets you rank your priorities on the fly and do what is best in the moment you are in. The goal is for you to be in control of your self. The lists keep the mundane tamed so you can look it all over with a calm and calculated eye and “do the next thing” that needs to be done.
A well-kept next-actions list prevents situations like beginning to wash the dishes, getting everything all set and wet and sudsy, then realizing out of the blue, “I have overdue library books!” “I needed to pay the bills today!” “I said I’d call ____ about ____!” and feeling like you have to do that more urgent or higher-priority thing right now before you forget again.
When you can calmly review all things you are responsible for doing, you can make a judgment call and feel confident in your choice.
Of course and unfortunately, simply having the lists doesn’t actually make you in control of yourself.
After you have those lists, you still actually have to do those things, and you still might not even want to. No system is a key to self-control and discipline. I know. I’ve tried. And so far all my systems have crashed and burned under my lack of self mastery. If the system controls you, you are its slave and you and everyone around you will suffer for it.
In refusing the be my systems’ slaves, I have also refused to be my own master. So my desires and my laziness become master instead.
How do you usually think about your different types of task? By context? By energy requirements? By some other categorization all your own? Use it! The set of subcategories that work best will be the ones you already function in. The additional functionality that comes by writing that way of thinking down will be more than if you try to adopt someone else’s categorization. So, what sorts of things do you do? What groupings make sense to you? Create those lists — just headings on paper (or on screen) for now.
No matter what your style, however, be sure that everything on your mind is written down instead.
GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.