After a while of tracking tasks, you may notice that the number of tasks you give yourself tends to increase every day. To the point where today you have a task list as long as your arm and you know for certain that there are some things on there that are never going to get done unless things change. Here are four strategies for getting through your insurmountable list of tasks.
The simplest way to get through this massive list of tasks is to delete them. That’s not to say that you should just delete the whole lot. Not this week, but next week, schedule an hour into your calendar and in that hour meticulously review each and every item you have on your task list. Decide if each one is still relevant or not, and if not, delete it. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if a task is still needed.
- Is it still current? If the deadline for the task has come and gone and it still has not been completed, perhaps this task was never needed in the first place. If the world has kept spinning after the deadline it’s time to delete it.
- Is it still relevant? Does the task still make sense given what has happened since you created it. If after careful consideration, the task no longer makes sense, delete it.
- Do I really need to do this? If you find that the task is simply a “nice to have”, that is, something that has only very little impact, delete it. If time permits later down the track and you’d like to achieve it, then you can re-add the task then.
Deleting tasks that you no longer need to actually do will certainly reduce the size if your list. A smaller list means you you’ll be better motivated to complete the few task remaining.
It’s time to call in those favours. Consider having a “working bee” on your task list. Any task that can be done without too much background knowledge can technically be done by just about anyone with the capabilities. Delegate tasks to friends, family and colleagues to help you get through the massive number of tasks on your list. Of course, not every task can be delegated, but since you can delegate some, those that you can not can stay on your list and you can do them while everyone else is taking care of your other tasks.
This action is especially true in the work environment. Too often we now expect too much of ourselves and take on job after job that is handed to us without really considering what impact that has on the other jobs we already have to do.
Either talk to your manager, or do this on your own (take the initiative). Find someone in your workplace that has the skills required to either complete one of the tasks on your list, or partially complete it. Talk to them, and using very kind words, ask them to help you on those tasks.
Many new task management tools have the ability to delegate a task. Wunderkit, from 6Wundkinder, is one of those tools. Invite your colleague to Wunderkit and share a workspace with them. Inside that workspace create the task and assign it to them. This way you will be kept up to date with any questions or comments your colleague has and you’ll be immediately notified when the task is complete.
Often, a task will get overlooked when we’re in a “doing” mode because it seems to be a very big, complex and time consuming job. Our minds like to get things done and if we can avoid the big complex task in favour of completing several quicker, easier tasks, then that’s exactly what we do.
You can trick your mind into thinking that big, complex task is super simple, and it’s super easy. Those big tasks will tend to have a whole lot of less obvious tasks hidden within them. Your job is to uncover what those less obvious tasks are and replace that single big task with them. While this does increase the number of tasks on your list, it’s actually no bigger than it was before, but now you have a much better chance of actually getting it done.
An example of this kind of big ugly task is “Clean the house”. This task is too broad. You would have no idea where to start or what to do. This can be broken down and replaced with exactly what needs to be cleaned, and then you can order them how you’d like too. Again, Wunderkit is perfectly suited to help you do this. Just being able to quickly create a whole lot of tasks, without having to enter things like due dates, context, priorities etc. that you might need to with other applications, and then being ale to reorder these tasks just by dragging and dropping them around means that you can then very easily see what smaller task can be done next.
The other big plus of these smaller tasks is that they are motivators. You’d feel much better about things at the end of the day being able to say you got through 6 tasks on your list instead of just 1, right?
Finally, the ultimate way to get the number of tasks on your list down, is to actually do them. Schedule an hour in your calendar and spend that time going through your list and allocating more time in your calendar for when you will get each task done. However, don’t add a 6 hour block to your calendar and label it “Do tasks on list”. This isn’t practical. When the time comes to start that 6 hours you’ll still have no idea what you need to do. Instead, put a separate block of time aside for each task. In that time focus only on that task and avoid distractions like phone calls, emails and social networks. If you finish early, that’s great! Go grab a coffee and get stuck into the next task. Seem tasks you’ll finish early and some will take a bit longer, so it will all balance out in the end.
Schedule your time about a week in advance if possible. I spend Friday afternoon planning out my time for the following week. It’s a great feeling on Monday morning when you know exactly what you need to do and when for the next five days.
What are your tips for getting through an insurmountable list of tasks?