3 steps to a shorter list of Next Actions

Keep focused on your priorities.

If I had to choose the weakest part of my productivity system, well, it would be the art of choosing the next action.

My Priority list in Nozbe usually contains about 30–40 tasks. That’s absolutely too many to complete in 24 hours. As you can imagine, they aren’t my real Next Actions.

Some of them I scheduled in the past, with a slight hope that I would be able to complete this later. Of course, usually I’m not. My fault is that I schedule too many tasks to random days. “Today I’m busy, but next week I’ll find some time for that”. Do you know that? I say it too often to myself. Every “next week” is busier than previous one, so I witness the power of snowball effect.

The conclusion is: my productivity system is vulnerable. But there’s a hope.

There’s one sentence in Michael Sliwinski’s “10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity” book that I strongly believe:

The key to success is the theory of small victories.

That’s why I’ve been creating, by trials and errors, rules for myself to avoid this weakness of my system. I can get rid of feeling the sense of being overwhelmed and stop the „rescheduling wave” if I follow this:

Be ruthless for unimportant tasks on your list. I change or turn off due date for them. Sometimes there are tasks that don’t belong to me, e.g. that had been mine but were delegated to someone else. I quickly process them and throw out from my Priorities.

Use filters. Nozbe is genuinely outstanding when it comes to managing the task list. Each list can be sorted and/or filtered in a different way. When my Priority list is too long, I feel unproductive and demotivated. To focus on the most important tasks, I filter it by labels (“work” or “private”) and, for example, due date. I also like to see tasks only from shared projects to have a view what I had committed to do. Filtering by date shows tasks scheduled for the past — some of them were done, but not marked as completed.

Find quick wins. The rules above are just tricks to clean the list and make it more manageable. Now it’s time to get something done. Some tasks need less than 2 minutes (according to the Two-Minute rule, they shouldn’t be tasks, but it usually implies to some repeating small stuff I don’t want to forget about). I do them in the first order. After that, I see I’ve accomplished something. Now it’s easier to do something bigger, like the frog of the day.

I’m aware that some research says that small wins at the beginning of the day are unproductive and we should start with big things instead. I suggest you trying it on your own and find a sweet spot. There’s nothing that works for everyone. In fact, I treat quick wins as a way to make my list shorter.

What do you think? Do you have the same problem? How do you manage your Next Actions’ list?