As part of taking stock of where you are, you need to consider what is not only on your schedule, but what is on your project list. By having an accurate idea of what is outstanding for you, you can decide what to get rid of, what to complete quickly, and what to defer.
First of all, it’s not your fault things are out of control
One of the things I find funny about most personal management systems is the assumption that you make a conscious effort to decide if you will take on a project. From my experience, I don’t see that as the case.
Example: your son comes home from school and announces that he has been selected to play the lead in the class play, which will include a costume of a radish. It is now your project to get that radish costume, even though that isn’t something you might have chosen to put on your list.
Example: at work, you are asked your opinion about the holiday party, and at your boss’s request you find yourself on a committee of people working to plan more events to boost morale. Again, not something you consciously chose, but something that was thrust upon you.
Sometimes projects end up on our lists by simple choices. Today, I bought chickpeas and eggs with the thought that I would make hummus and hard-boiled eggs to give us some healthy protein for snacks and lunches. By putting those two items in my grocery cart, I landed two more projects on my plate.
You Might Not Be Aware Of Your Full List
With all of the above examples, you might not be aware of the extent of your projects. These are things that are requiring your attention and effort, but they might not end up on a list anywhere, because you may not have really thought through the effort.
It’s important to do a periodic sweep to make sure that all these things are captured into one place so that you can see what is expected of you.
Open Loops and the RAM Dump
David Allen calls these outstanding projects open loops. He suggests going through and reviewing them once a week. That’s fine if you already know what all your open loops are. But what if you don’t?
This is where the RAM Dump comes in. (It doesn’t hurt that it fits in with the life reboot theme, either!) I personally use a list from Kathy Paauw, found here. This list helps me track down things that I might not have realized are nagging at me, pulling my attention. I try to do this list quarterly.
The Mini-RAM Dump
The big RAM dump list is a great tool, but it is big. On a weekly basis, I conduct my own mini-version of the RAM dump, which I use to remind me of just the sort of tasks I gave above. It contains items like:
- For each of my daughter’s activities, is there anything expected of me in the next week? Month?
- For Girl Scouts, is there anything coming up in the next two months I need to prepare for? What are the upcoming deadlines? (you can insert any organization in there)
- In my kitchen, is there anything I need to attend to? Food to be frozen? Dishes not on the menu plan that need to be prepared?
- In my clothing, is there anything that needs special cleaning? Hand washing? Dry cleaning?
- Do I have enough cleaning supplies on hand? How about toiletries? Paper products?
You get the idea. These questions bring my focus onto things that are “everyday” but when not done can pose a big inconvenience.
How do you capture outstanding projects for the big and little stuff? Share below.
Photo by roens
Articles In The Series:
- Life Reboot: Where Do You Start?
- Your Ideal Evening
- What Do I Want My Weekends To Look Like?
- What Do I Want More Of In My Life?
- What Do I Want Less Of In My Life?
- Projects, Open Loops and the RAM Dump
- Thinning Projects
- Doing A Time Audit
- Eliminating Time Wasters
- Do You Have Brain Thrash?
- How To Streamline Inputs
- How To Plan A Month
- How To Make A Weekly Plan