Working at the library

routine next actions

There are many ways to craft a task list. Last week, I mentioned the importance of limiting tasks so that decision paralysis is minimized. The question remains, how to keep up with numerous projects? Is there a way to be consistent without becoming overwhelmed by all the steps needed to reach the finish?

Yes, I use a hybrid system that treats projects akin to habits. Why? For projects that span weeks or months, staring down all the due dates can be oppressive. While those specifics are critical to the completion of a project, a nudge–a reminder–to work toward the general end goal is often more effective.

While some are routine tasks–items laundry, take out trash, and tidy desk come to mind–those that are a component of a larger project require repetition on the project to make progress, but writing “knit design project (hat)” on a task list every day is needlessly repetitive.

Projects as habits

Anno section as habit trackerI make an entry for the general project in a habit tracker. Sometimes I use an app, however right now I prefer to use a section of my Rhodia Goalbook. I break the anno into smaller sections (5mm squares work nicely with the line height). If the project only lasts a partial month either I grey out that section (as shown in March) or I reuse it for the next project.

Next Action tasks

list of tasks required to finish a knit hatThis allows me to see an overview of how much attention is provided to a project, or not. In my task management system, the specific tasks and milestone dates are entered for the project. For example, this is a hat I need to complete by the end of the month.

While “knit on project” and “knit on project — finish one repeat section” are both equally valid tasks, I’ve found my motivation processes them in different ways. The nudge of the habit is helpful to remind me that yes, I really do need to make forward progress on that project. Knowing the exact next step that is needed helps me jump straight in to make headway.

Is this repetition busy work, or the system difficult to manage? It’s been a successful part of my system for years, I find that it works for me.

I hope this hybrid approach provides ideas on ways to utilize and blend aspects of different tools to make progress on your large projects.