I’m spending more time deciding what to do than doing tasks, what should I do?
I work as a pharmacy manager and using OmniFocus with GTD methodology, creating tasks and giving them an assigned project.
Based on Eisenhower matrix, I’m locked in the Decide quadrant. I have many tasks in the Delegate quadrant, so my alternatives for my pending tasks are either Delegate more tasks, Do them or Delete them. What should I do? Why am I locked?
Eisenhower Decision Matrix
OmniFocus is my second brain that stores everything I want to work on, deferred, or delegated to others for followup.
I do my planning in OmnIFocus. When I put on my manager hat, I open OmniFocus to do all the project/task management. My favorite perspective is called “Menu”. It shows a list of all available tasks sorted by due dates. Looking at my menu, I currently have 105 next actions that I could theoretically work on. That’s an impossible count and would sink me to the deepest depths of despair if I looked at that list all day long. I’d have too many choices and have paralysis-by-analysis syndrome.
At the end of each day, I look at my menu and choose 3-5 tasks to work on for tomorrow. I typically write those tasks down on an index card on my desk and put that in front of my computer. Or I can just write those tasks in my BuJo (GoodNotes or a physical notebook). It is also easy enough to highlight a task, copy it, and paste it into a TextEdit document. It creates a hyperlink of the task and allows me to click back to OmniFocus when needed.
This short list of 3-5 tasks are my Most Important Tasks (MITs). I don’t look at OmniFocus at all. I just look at the MIT list and get to work. I check them off my index card until I finish the last task. At the end of day, I’ll go back to OmniFocus and check them off. If I do finish the 3-5 tasks early, I’ll go back to OmniFocus and choose another 3-5 tasks to work on.
The only time I do spend time deciding on tasks is at the end of day or if I finish my tasks earlier in the day. Use OmniFocus for decision-making, planning, and reviewing. Use something else (pen/paper, Drafts, TextEdit, GoodNotes) for work.
Would this help?
You’re surely not alone. Whether or not you adhere to strict GTD practices (OF is skillfully designed to allow GTD, deviations from it, and completely different alternatives), you may benefit - I suggest - from refusing to set artificial Due Dates, from accurate subdivisions for Projects and from studiously avoiding unnecessary tagging.
I’ve also learnt from many years of using OF (and its competitors) that, if designed properly, nothing is permanent: through drag-and-drop and through the ease with which OF allows us to rename Projects and move them within conceptual hierarchies, we can try an approach … for a week, month, year; see if it works; not be too reluctant to experiment, refine and discard what doesn’t while fine-tuning what does.
IOW, perhaps, plunge in: you’ll quickly find the stumbling blocks, review alternatives and implement them.
I also have a big “meta-management” burden, in my case related to running multiple (interrelated) projects at multiple organizations. (Meta-management is management of one’s management processes per (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/2334804_Goal_Processing_in_Autonomous_Agents)).
Big options: paring down projects (prioritizing) and delegating (which may call for more resources, which in turn may require resourcefulness).
Much simpler than that.
Just work out where (if anywhere) you’re trying to get to.
When we are reacting passively to slings and shots and intrays from outside, there is absolutely no point in optimising that process.
No amount of jargon or technique will squeeze anything other than a random walk from being jostled about in brownian motion, however ‘zen-like’, ‘efficient’ or ‘meta’.
If you’re running true GTD and doing anything which takes less than 2 minutes, My biggest tip here is that anything which doesn’t need DOing immediately (Important but not Urgent) should be on your Someday (Tag) list and removed from your view (through the use of pausing the Someday Tag and using perspectives which don’t display anything which is paused)
Then on a Friday I review what is Active and being worked on. If I don’t have enough I will take one or more projects off my someday list and make them active whilst fleshing them out with actions.
Then I’m set for a whole week.
All the strategies mentioned here are fantastic. Personally, to keep good GTD hygiene I make heavy use of folders and work from Project view mainly. I keep it very simple. The folders at the top only hold a few items. I bring “NOW” and “NEXT UP” to zero almost everyday. If I am feeling courageous, I click on “DO” and I will see the longer list of my projects and tasks. Throughout the day I add things and lightly organize my NOW and NEXT UP lists. About every 2 weeks I look at my whole system.
When I really need extra focus (even if it’s only 2 minutes), I drag my tasks to the Minus Task Bar (https://minus.app).
I don’t believe much in semi-automatic methods such as priority grids, etc., unless tasks are very complex to prioritize. I want to be on top of what I’ll do and not be “controlled” by a technique or algorithm.
When OmniFocus 3 went out, I was tempted to use lots of tags, which has proved to be a great and fun way to procrastinate. One day I found that I was doing lots of project management for the beauty and fun of it, and I had difficulty to work on tasks since I focused so much on project managing. I solved this problem by reducing drastically the number of tags I use:
- Waiting (this has been delegated and I’m waiting for an answer)
- Next (I want to complete this task this week)
- Today (I want to complete this task today)
- Someday (I want to do this someday but I know I won’t, and I feel guilty to just delete it).
My review day is Monday morning. There, I check my emails, review my projects, and set the Next tags (what I want done for next Monday). I try to be realistic on the number of Next tasks so that I feel proud on Friday, and so that every week is a new one, with new priorities and objectives. Then, every other morning, I select Today tasks from the Next tasks and mainly work only on these tasks.
Yes, some urgent task come everyday by mail, but at least I don’t have to dig everyday into my huge list of tasks.
Hope this helps (if it fits your workflow of course)
As David Sparks says, at this point you need to put your big boy pants on and delete these tasks. It’s a waste to keep these hanging around if you know you won’t do them. For me, this would lead to guilt every time I looked at this list.
Once a month I review my someday list and delete anything which I know I’m not going to get to, or don’t want to do.
When a person is ready to let go of tasks then they’ll know it’s time. Everyone has their own schedule and a personal attachment to some of these tasks.
It’s helpful to put a
Someday or a
Maybe tag to a task or project. When it’s time to review, thoughtful consideration can be used to finally decide when it’s time to let go and delete. But many tasks will be rendered obsolete or irrelevant with the passage of time.
I agree that you should regularly clean out tasks which end up tagged with ‘someday’ inside active projects (if that’s something you do), since they can make the state of the project harder to understand and update.
Another approach is having one or more dedicated ‘Someday’ projects which are set to ’On Hold’ status (so their items are never available). This is the principle of the ‘Someday/Maybe’ lists recommended in GTD, which are for things you might want to do in the future, but not now. In that sense, they are just ideas for things to do with no obligation.
It doesn’t bother me keeping those in OF. I put all the Someday projects in a folder which I keep collapsed — ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I review them occasionally and it’s easy to promote an idea to an intention by assigning it to an active project. Alternatively those ideas could be stored in another app.
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