When the Day Slips Away…

The day just slips away. “I was supposed to get that thing done!” and, once again, it didn’t happen. You may have even been using your task system, trying to keep yourself on track. But somehow, it just didn’t work.

One area that could be a problem is in the divisions between the Inbox, the Today list, and return between sessions.

An Example in Crossing the Streams – Today & Inbox

As an example of a problematic use, you have your list in front of you, you choose something to do, and head off. As you remember important matters, phone calls come in, and more, you might think, “Well I have to do that”. You then add them directly to the Today list. Using OmniFocus, for example, you could just add a flag (Shift-Command-l).

You might even think, well, I can figure out how this will fit everything else later, though I imagine a subtle feeling of helplessness already starts to creep in.

Then, hopefully, you finish that something you were working on, or not. A sense that the day is getting away from you flares, you rush to the next thing. Maybe you go to your Today list where you see the things you’ve added. Maybe not, and you just remember something else that is important and run off to that, instead.

As exhaustion sets in, procrastination might, too. Maybe you steal a moment here or there to browse the Internet, because you’re tired and you have to take a break, have a snack or otherwise. Or through sheer tyranny of will, you avoid procrastination, but are still behind.

Returning to your list at the end of the day, so much of what you’d intended to get to sits there, filling you with a familiar sense of grief, if not desperation.

A Possible Remedy

Of course, there is the possibility that you simply have more than can be humanly done. Barring that possibility, consider:

Do Not Use Today as an Inbox

First, instead of adding anything to the Today list directly, or even assigning tags or otherwise,

  • Add it directly to the Inbox.

In OmniFocus, use the custom key command to quickly pull up the Quick entry. To do so,

  • Open Preferences (Command-,).
  • Go to the General tab.
  • Select the hotkey area and assign a desired key combination:

Here, I’ve assigned Control-Option-Space.

Second, after you are done with any session of work:

  • Return to and settle the task system.

I go into detail as to what “settling” a system means in both Being Productive and Creating Flow with OmniFocus, but in short, it means that you’ve cleared the Inbox and made your Today list, once again, look reasonable for the time left in your day.

You may need to arrange matters and deliberately take some things off your lists. But now, you have a clear idea of where a problem may lie. You might realize that that what you are looking to do is, in fact, not possible with the current arrangement of work. Or, with some passage of time, you recognize that some work is not as immediate as you first thought. Hopefully, you’ll then have a better understanding of where to make changes to your day.

The practice helps you to learn how to integrate a period of time between sessions of work during which you deliberately focus on planning and re-calibrating the day.