Tag Archives: productivity

A Yoda-Inspired Task Management Tip

As Disney takes Star Wars mania to new levels, I find it increasingly difficult to remain the odd guy who’s never seen a movie or knows much about the series. In truth, it’s impossible to fully evade this cultural phenomenon, and indeed one of my favorite project/task management techniques comes from a timeless phrase by master Yoda:

Do, or do not; there is no try.

I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Michael Linenberger’s Manage Your Now methods. Crisply stating the next action for an open loop is a simple but powerful way to ensure progress. And taking a page from Yoda, I’ve made it a point to never use “try” when I’m writing down a next action or committing to something in general.

Whenever I’m tempted to write “try” in an email or task note, I pause and ask myself, “what would it take to delete’try’ here?” Am I thinking I can get more done today than I actually can? Do I need to enlist support from someone else before I can commit to this? Do I have to train or read more on a particular topic before I can act on it?

I must emphasize this is not about verbalization – it’s just a useful way to uncover hidden dependencies or break down tasks that stems from a particular way of wording them. I have nothing against the word “try”, or the concept of trying itself; exploring, experimenting, and setting stretch goals are all good things, in the right context. More often than not, though, when planning work I’ve found “try” is more of a crutch or oversimplification that you’d do well to remove as early as possible.  If you say “I’ll try to get this done by Friday”, I’m not advocating you blindly remove ‘try to’ – it came to your mind for a reason!  Take the chance to deep dive that reason and come up with a better commitment, even if it’s later or ends up requiring more work than you thought (which you’ll want to know as early as possible anyway).

By paying close attention to the subtle clues your word choices hide, you can improve your planning and management skills. And while it means next to nothing to me, you know what my parting line has to be here, so: may the force be with you!

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The Rise of the Task Management Inbox

Much of today’s task management issues stem from using the email inbox as a task management system.  Thus far, solutions have revolved around re-educating ourselves on inbox management.  Now, a couple startups (and at least one large email player) are actually rethinking the way our inbox works.  As they carefully tread new ground, task management laypeople will benefit immediately, while productivity experts will initially struggle with this new paradigm.

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Defuse Micromanagement by Emphasizing Time Instead of Control

If you enjoy working with micro-managers, you can skip the rest of this post.

OK.  Now that I have your attention, let me offer a suggestion for dealing with the micro-managers in your environment by approaching them with a genuine intention to help with –not correct– this trait.  Help them deal with the impact it has on their time, as opposed of making it about the way they control their duties.

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Choosing Rules For Bounding Tasks In Time

I’ve been using GTD since late 2006, but it really took on a whole new level for me after reading The Secret Weapon Manifesto. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, Getting Things Done (GTD) is a time/task management methodology first introduced by Dave Allen in his 2002 book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”; The Secret Weapon (hereafter “TSW”) is a specific, detailed guide to implementing the GTD methodology using the popular Evernote note-taking service.

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