Recently, I switched my project and task manager from Todoist (a great tool, and one I have enjoyed using over a number of years) to Click-Up, a software that is more robust in some ways, while also being highly configurable. The reason I moved is due to something I learned from David Allen, the author of "Getting Things Done," and an equally important follow-up titled, "Making It All Work."

The main takeaway for me is that project and task management is about control and perspective. Some of the new software seems to create a greater sense of control and perspective.

woman using calendar software

The Need for Control

Like a lot of people, I practice a modified version of GTD. I have three times declared project and task management bankruptcy. The modification I have made is limiting what I put on my task list to only what I am committed to doing. When I put every task, large or small, on my task list, I felt tremendously overwhelmed. Too many small tasks taking up too much psychic energy.

If you want to gain a sense of control, at a minimum you need a master project list, a task list, and a commitment to a weekly review, a process that allows you to gain a sense of control when done regularly. These lists and a frequent review of them will reduce the sense that things are out of control—even when things are out of control.

I have created something I call a "Fire Board." The Fire Board is a list of problems and challenges that need to be resolved. Problems don't age well, and capturing them and drafting notes about what you need to do allows you to objectify them, sapping some of their power when it comes to your attention. With the fires all contained on their list, you can work on opportunities before working on your problems and challenges.

There is a tremendous advantage to being well organized. In addition to a sense of control, you also don't have the additional problems of not knowing what you need to do or what you owe others.

If you want to experience this, grab a piece of paper and a pen, preferably a Pilot G2 gel pen, and write down everything you need to do. Don't worry about organizing it or capturing it in an electronic format. After you have your list, see if you don't feel as if you have gained some sense of control.

train tracks switching sides

A Change in Perspective

Perspective not only allows you to prioritize your projects and tasks but also creates an even greater sense of control. There are some projects that are far more important than others. There are also some tasks that take precedence over other choices you might make during the day. A project that is your life's work is going to be more important than, say, cleaning your desk.

There is a reason I continue to suggest that you should not open your email inbox until you've done at least ninety minutes of work. There is nothing in your email that is more important than your life's work. The reason I have been able to write every day is because I do it first each day, following it with the most important task or project I have prioritized.

I treat projects and tasks like a conveyor belt, always completing the task or project with the closest deadline first, ensuring that what needs to be done is completed long before the due date. The idea is something like "first do, first due."

Without perspective, all tasks are equal. When this is true, you might cherry-pick the one that strikes your fancy at the moment, even if it isn't going to contribute to your goals or your ambitions. If everything is equally important then nothing is important. One way to think about this is to ask yourself the question, "What do I want to leave undone." You don't want to leave the most important projects and tasks undone, which means you have to have a perspective that includes the idea that your time is limited, and there is little chance you are going to be able to do everything.

I am willing to die with a full email inbox. I apologize now that when I am gone, I will not regret returning your email. The idea of inbox zero is seductive because you'd love to rid yourself of the mess that is your email, but the time you spend on email means you spent time on something that isn't anywhere near your most important work.

The reason people clean their desks is to acquire a sense of perspective and control. You can achieve an equal or greater sense of control and perspective by wrangling your projects and tasks and prioritizing them, doing the most important task before you do anything else. You not only feel control and perspective, but you will also feel as if you have achieved something, getting an early win at the start of your day.

Do Good Work!

Post by Anthony Iannarino on April 8, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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