2Time Labs
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2Time Labs

Why should an ambitious person care about becoming a better diagnostician in task management?

Note: The MyTimeDesign Rapid Assessment has just opened. If you manage lots of tasks, keep reading…

In total, the world’s productivity enthusiasts comprise a small group. These are folks whose concern for their task management led them to pick up a book or training in order to carve out some improvement.

If you count yourself as a member, you probably learned to manage more tasks than the average person, with fewer errors and greater peace of mind. It worked! And you absolutely loved that feeling of growth.

But it doesn’t last.

For most, there comes a time when you feel as if you are a beginner all over again. Feelings of overwhelm you thought you had escaped return. Deadlines are being missed, and your inboxes explode. The same issues and errors that led you to implement better practices in the first place are back.

In horror, you dig out your original lessons and try to reapply them. But they don’t work. Why not? It’s likely that the practices you implemented were designed for who you used to be, but not for who you have become. Now, at this more busy and productive stage, they are no longer sufficient.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Most fields of human endeavor, such as sports or education, acknowledge the following: at a certain point, introductory lessons no longer provide the same benefit. Instead, you must undertake a transformation — a fresh way to make progress. Fortunately, on playing fields and in classrooms, coaches and teachers are there to show us how.

However, our research shows that in task management there’s little help for you at the most critical moments…when your (self-assigned) task load rises to a new volume. Just like that, old problems and errors resurface. Your current setup of habits, practices, apps and devices becomes overwhelmed.

While a few try to cut back their tasks, it’s ultimately a short-lived, futile effort. Eventually, they’ll be compelled by their commitments to fill their lives with more tasks until it hits the same limit. If they are creative, or have a dash of Type-A personality, it happens faster.

What’s the best approach?

If you’re familiar with high performance in most fields, you may already know the answer: you must leave behind general advice meant for beginners, and find a way to make targeted, personalized improvements. If this is true, the first step is to conduct an effective self-diagnosis.

In task management, you could begin by analyzing an array of practices such as “capturing tasks”. By now, you have probably worked with folks who practice this skill with varying degrees of competence: from the colleague who captures haphazardly, and randomly, using mental reminders, to the neighbor who captures flawlessly with a smartphone. Perhaps, if you could locate where you are between those extremes, you could improve this practice.

This self-assessment is where the MyTimeDesign Rapid Assessment begins. Within 20 minutes, you complete a diagnosis of 13 distinct practices (i.e. Flowing, Habiting, Warning, Reviewing, Switching, Interrupting, Capturing, Emptying, Listing, Storing, Scheduling, Acting Now and Tossing), resulting in a profile that looks like this:

But this analysis is just the beginning. To a novice, these practices may appear to be as separate from each other as fencing is from swimming in the modern pentathlon. However, to a productivity enthusiast who manages lots of tasks, the interdependencies among these practices require a deeper analysis to prevent mistakes.

It’s similar to the way the components of a car rely on each other to create a whole system. The complexity in both car design and task management means that sophisticated diagnoses are required to effect repairs and remove unwanted symptoms. But such fixes are just the beginning.

In task management you can go further and craft short to mid-term improvement plans. This second step in the training may bring back the thrill of that first growth spurt.

Plus, it will inoculate you from the temptation of bright shiny “productivity objects”. These are the behaviors and apps promoted by gurus and developers in ads and forums on places like Reddit.

They are nice, but don’t apply to you. Instead, you’re focused on following your improvement plans.

Finally, by taking matters into your own hands, you’re strengthening your personal diagnostic skills. This means that in the future, you won’t panic if you suddenly see errors. You’ll know exactly what to do — the calm demeanour of an experienced mechanic who hears the same sound you hear but reacts with a knowing nod.

In summary, you will be ready for a lifetime of ever-increasing task volume, armed with the right diagnostic tools. It’s more than a nice-to-have — it’s the only way to keep pace with your ambitions.

Update: To learn more, attend the webinar “Is a Switch to Self-Assessment the Way to Manage More Tasks?” click here.

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Francis Wade

Founder of 2Time Labs, ScheduleU.org and author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.