We can easily be overwhelmed by looking at even a realistic list of things we’d like to do today. This is particularly the case if there are many small tasks. A good list is one we can easily review in a short period of time so that we can make a clear decision about what to do next. For this to be the case, we generally need a short list.
However, this pushes against two other productivity tenets:
- Tasks should be clear and specific.
- One should offload as much as possible into a trusted system.
Offloading everything as clear and specific tasks can quickly generate a huge list. While we can use flags to highlight certain tasks, we would easily create the same problem by flagging too many.
Sessions vs. Tasks
Instead, consider organizing your work by sessions.1 I use a custom perspective, called the Dashboard, to organize my intended daily sessions of work. Here is an example:
See the Dashboard settings in the footnote below.2
The Dashboard Perspective functions as a central hub. Any major projects or flows of habit appear here. My intention is to complete the list before the end of the workday. In this example, you can see that there are 5 general areas of work I intend to visit. Each “task” carries a link to the batched tasks I care to do for today.3:
Some tasks are batched by project. Some are batched by context. All are batched by whatever criteria I find most useful. The brevity of the Dashboard Perspective allows me to make a quick decision as to what I would like to do next without having to wade through the smaller tasks.
In its years, my use of the Dashboard Perspective has evolved. When it began, it was more about doing all the little things that I needed to so I could get to the major things. Later, I added my major projects so they would all sit together. When the perspective was at its busiest, I had dozens of specific, clearly worded tasks in this one list. I would rarely visit any others. While the system “worked”, I also remember feeling harried. sometimes looking at the list over and over again. Thankfully, as my “system” began to be more about my own habits, individual tasks could be removed.
The Dashboard now represents sessions of work more so than individual tasks. There are the occasional exceptions4, but specific tasks tend to be more associated with projects and contexts and remain unflagged. I go to them as a part of the flow from flagged tasks as shown above.
- Sessions are a more fundamental component of work than the task, project, or context. Defining: A Session is the time, space, and attention used in developing a workflow.↩︎
- The Dashboard Perspective displays anything Flagged or Due Soon and sorts them by Project:
- Please note, this is not a GTD concept. In fact, if I understand it correctly, GTD shuns the day’s task list entirely and avoids the “general” wording of tasks I use above. But this system has worked well for me for several years now. ↩︎
- Sometimes I do still add specific tasks to the Dashboard perspective. These often represent:
- tasks that haven’t found a way into batching or
- tasks that are due soon.
For example, if my pen is out of ink, “Refill pen” might get a flag. If it can wait, though, I can give it a context of “File & Flow : Home” which I visit weekly based on a flagged reminder task “Clear: Home Filing”.↩︎
Originally posted at UsingOmniFocus.com.