James Surowiecki wrote in a very inspiring article titled “What does procrastination tell us about ourselves?”:
“There’s something comforting about this story: even Nobel-winning economists procrastinate! Many of us go through life with an array of undone tasks, large and small, nibbling at our conscience.”
Task lists never really worked out for me. They often quickly morphed into a dumping ground for stuff I was never going to complete, anyway. For several months I’ve tried to take control of my task lists, but back in 2010 I stumbled upon Rene Cunningham’s post about why task lists are broken.
He describes an approach in which each task is not written on a task list that will grow forever, but you record each task as a future appointment with a specific date, time, and duration on your calendar. This means that you immediately notice when you over commit or when you have a free slot to get some work done.
I’m happy to say that the results have been positive. It’s good to see my tasks directly on my calendar and to be very conscious about moving tasks, when you defer them. As an added benefit you immediately see the impact of additional appointments or tasks on your day’s schedule and you can decide right then if your new appointment might be more important than the task you wanted to complete during that time.
A few months ago I also started using reminders in Google Inbox to make sure I act on e-mails and don’t forget important tasks and had a great experience with them. It’s certainly not a panacea, but it can be a great tool to get more visibility into your calendar and tasks and it might be worth a try if your task lists are growing without an end in sight.