Processing the Do it list, as described below and in the previous two blogs, can appear very complicated. But it is in fact quite simple if you work your way systematically through the guidelines I am giving you. I want to urge you to persevere – it will quickly become ‘second nature’ and will redeem hours of your time to be used more effectively. So, keep going – we are nearly finished! Don’t fall just short of the finishing line!!
Having looked at the symbols used when setting up the day’s Do it list we shall now look at those used to monitor progress and maintain continuity. There are two symbols in each category.
^ In Process
The symbols ‘^’ (in process) and ‘/’ (completed) are used as the day progresses. The first, ‘In Process’, is used to denote that the task has not yet been completed but that nothing further can be done at this stage. For instance, suppose you have to make a phone call and you have reached this task as the next on your priority list. On making the call you find the recipient is not available and you leave a message to call back. You can do no more at this stage but the task is not completed as the content of the anticipated call could not be discussed. Nevertheless, if you do not place an indicator beside the task on your list it is possible to keep getting distracted in the busyness of the day – ‘did I make that call or not?’
‘/’ is used when a task has been completed. Your target for the day is to have as many of these symbols as possible!
What happens at the end of the day, which I shall call Day 1, or when you do your planning the following day, Day 2? You need to look back on the list that has guided you through Day 1 and identify any tasks that are still ‘live’. These are indicated either by having no monitoring symbol, as you never attempted the task, or by the symbol ‘^’, which indicates an incomplete task.
There are two symbols to help you to maintain continuity: ‘>’ (Transferred) and ‘x’ (Dropped).
If a task in Day 1 still needs to be done you must transfer it to Day 2’s list by writing it in again. But do not carry forward the priority (A, B, C) as the task needs re-prioritising in light of the new day. (If you use a PDA do not ‘cut and paste’ but ‘copy and paste’. It is important to maintain a complete record of the past day when, at a later stage, you may wish to review your diary, so you should not delete it from Day 1.)
Having done this go back to Day 1’s list and place ‘>’ beside the transferred task to indicate that you have made the transfer. It is essential that you follow this sequence of activities. Remember that I told you this is a water-tight system of time management if you follow the rules? If you put a ‘>’ beside the task on Day 1 before writing it into Day 2 and you are interrupted there is the potential of the task getting lost. So this is one of the very important rules to avoid leakage!
In some cases it is possible that you do not transfer the pending task to Day 2 but put it somewhere else – Day 7, say. Maybe your ‘Day 2’ is so committed that you know the task will not be completed on that day either so why not choose which day you do expect to complete it and transfer it there at once? When returning to Day 1 there is no need to know where you have transferred the task to – the fact that you have written it down before indicating the transfer with ‘>’ is sufficient. You know you will come to it in due course because you have been diligent in following this rule.
A task that is marked ‘^’ in Day 1 may need some careful thought. Do you initiate the call again as the recipient has not phoned back or do you just wait? The former (you initiate the call again) becomes a new task whereas the latter (continue to wait for the call back) carries ‘^’ with it from Day 1.
When you review the Do it list of Day 1 some of the incomplete tasks may no longer be relevant. Perhaps the moment has passed or some other factor makes them no longer necessary. In this case place ‘x’ beside them to show you have intentionally dropped them. Again, if using a PDA do not delete them, for the sake of a complete record.
You are now set up for the next day! There may, of course, be other items already on the Do it list for that day which you have posted previously and these, with the transferred ones, now need to be prioritised for this new day.
We have nearly reached the end of this series on Time Management. In the next blog I will review the key steps as a summary. We shall also look briefly at applying this to PDAs. However, I am conscious that there are many PDAs on the market and would value contributions from you about your experience with applying this time management system to your particular accessory. It may take time to collect such information so we may need to return to this topic at a later stage to share these experiences. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your observations.