The effects of micro-managing your next-action lists and how to keep your lists on track.

How should I prioritize my todo lists?

I spend so much time on my list. How can I minimize the effort?

Should I plan my tasks on a “today” list?

The first question I get asked after the exercise of writing your next action list in my meetups is: “how do I prioritize the tasks”? The answer is: do not prioritize your list.

High-turn-around lists are resistant to micro-managing

Increasing the speed of my next-action lists and removing the order of tasks, was the biggest insight I had about GTD in the recent years:

Complete the tasks on your next-action list within a few days. List micro-managing becomes unnecessary, even unfeasible.

Use your next action list hundreds of times a day. As soon as your main next-action lists turn over quickly, prioritization will feel like overhead. Free yourself from the weight of slow moving lists:

  • Stop reordering. Your tasks should be small enough that you are able to complete them in a few days. If you feel the need to put tasks on top of the list, you have tasks on there which you are avoiding. The order should not be that important, since you consider all the next actions on the list when deciding what to do next. If you use a todo list software that lets you set up the sorting of your tasks, set the sorting by age. You can see which tasks you are procrastinating on. DoNext sorts the next-actions by date and you cannot reorder tasks.

  • Stop daily planning. Moving tasks to a separate list each day is just another way of reordering. You will constantly be moving tasks from one daily plan to the next. Lists called today often are outdated before the day even started. If you are focused on only a few big priorities, the next actions for the smaller commitments are probably still in your head. Instead, keep fast moving next action for each of your commitment on the next action list. Decide what you will do in each moment considering intuitively the current time and energy you have.

How to free your lists from over structuring

Try it now: Review your current next-action list setup:

  • Remove the “today” list if you have one. Merge the tasks it into your other next action list. Use next action lists when deciding what to do next.

  • Remove any prioritization from your list. No stars. No flags. No due dates. No rank. No order.

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