One of the biggest problems I have had with any productivity system I have tried is that my to do lists get out of control. They expand in two ways: to fill all possible space, and to fill all possible time with un-do-ableness. There are two ways that you can combat this bloat.
Pruning a List to Make it Manageable
There is an excellent article over at Getting Things Done blog talking about how to transform your list from things that are not granular enough to execute, as well as what should go on the list. It’s an excellent review of the Getting Things Done methodology.
Pruning a List To Make it Short
My main problem, once I understood the methods outlined above, and also the methods laid forth in the 7 Habits, was that there was simply too much. I would take one look at my lists, even when broken down by context, and immediately shut down, because I was overwhelmed. I felt like a failure if I didn’t check off everything on the list, even when Superwoman could not have done it.
Mark Forster’s closed lists, laid out in Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management (aff) helped greatly with that. I only get to put on my list for tomorrow what I can reasonably expect to be done. When I am done with those items, I get to do what I like, and relax.
What does your next action list look like? Is it too long or is it full of un-doable things? It’s worth thinking about.