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I’ve been building up my productivity system for a couple of weeks now. Following a read of Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done, I decided that this could form a good foundation for my to-do system. Check out this post for details of what I planned to do.

Shorten to Do List

If you couldn’t be bothered going back to that post, in summary, Zen to Done is a simplified version of GTD, with the focus on building a set of habits that stick.  Sticking with the habits is what I struggled with, the first time round. Leo recommended taking on only one habit at a time and so I chose the collecting habit. This worked very well for a few days, but then I had a big long list of notes that was stressing me out.

I decided that I needed to go against Leo’s advice on this and build in some more of the system sooner. I needed to get my actions out of my list made up of meeting notes, phone notes, general ideas and to-dos. I decided to take on a few more of the habits that I need to build. So, I added in the following:

  • At the end of each day, I process that day’s notes to pull out any actions that I need to take care of. These go in a big list at the back of my notebook.
  • At the beginning of each day, I decide on 3 Most Important Tasks (or MITs as Leo calls them). These are 3 tasks that I want to get done that day.

This is similar to the system that Leo uses and has been working much better. The information is flowing much freer and I feel much more in control. I can still sense some areas of resistance, but for now I am happy that I have got something in place that is working. I shall carry on with these three habits for a little while whilst I get into a habitual routine with it. Then I will start adding in more habits.

One thing I have found, though, is that I am not completing my three MITs a day. Possibly because my MITs are too big. There are several ways I could handle this:

  1. Carry them over to the next day – whilst this isn’t a show stopper in terms of my workload (I’ve already accounted for when they are going to finish), I don’t want to be leaving unfinished items on my todo list for each day. Psychologically, this is failing (even if I tell myself it’s ok).
  2. Do fewer MITs each day – again, this isn’t ideal. Sometimes I have struggled to do even one of my MITs.
  3. Break my MITs down into smaller MITs – some of my to-do’s have been horrendously huge. Review a 400 page document for example. There is no way I could do this in one day.

Option 3 sounds like the ideal option, but I’d like to do a bit more research on what other people have found to be the best way to set tasks. I will report back on this next week.