Task Management When the Bullets are Flying

Lately things around me are nuts. I don’t understand people who brag about how busy they are. In fact that guy makes me a little nauseous. Why would you be proud of being too busy to do anything right? Nevertheless, lately I am that guy. Between commitments at the day job, some very cool projects for MacSparky, the increased podcasting schedule, and my speaking gig next week at the ABA TechShow, I find myself underwater.

Generally, when things get nuts, I’m tempted to shut everything else out and just get to work. It is very tempting to ignore my task management system entirely and start pounding rocks. With this latest influx of work, I’ve tried a different strategy. I’m trying to manage my tasks at the same time that I’m overwhelmingly busy. It is working for me. While it now seems obvious, it was initially hard for me to justify spending any time on task management with bullets flying around me. So here are two ways to pull this off.

1. Review Every Day

This is a new practice for me that I started at the new year. While I used to do a weekly review, sometimes the review projects stacked up to such an extent that I was unable to get through them mindfully. Observing myself, it is clear that after reviewing 10 or 15 projects, I become much more about pressing the “Review” button and much less about actually paying attention. So I added a daily repeating task, “Review OmniFocus”. Now once a day I open the review tab in the OmniFocus on my iPad and review whatever is due. Sometimes it’s just one or two projects while others it may be ten. It’s never 50. This lets me take the time necessary to actually review each project. The practice has made my reviews more efficient and useful. Right now with things so busy, I am not giving up this practice and it is paying dividends. Despite having several plates in the air, there is no broken china at my feet.

2. Forecast Each Day

No matter how tired I am, every evening I spend 20 minutes looking at the forecast view for the next day and getting realistic with myself about what I can actually accomplish. While I still review my day’s tasks again in the morning, the triage has already largely occurred. Maybe this is a personal failing but going to bed knowing that I have the next day mapped out really helps. When I don’t plan the next day and wake up to find a day with 100 tasks needing sorting, it feels like icewater on my face. Maybe this is because I’m a morning person but when I get started I really want to be pounding rocks and not planning.

While both of these tips are useful every day, when things get hard the temptation will be there to ditch them. I certainly have in the past. With this latest scramble however, I have made a conscious decision not to do that and in fact comit to myself keep up with daily reviews and forecasting. It’s working. Life is nuts right now. I’m not.