Some of my todos simply don't get done

My current Omnifocus set up is quite simple:

My important todos are organized here:
@Priority 1: Contains 34 todos
@Priority 2: Contains 50 todos
@Priority 3: Contains 19 todos

The rest of my todos, 1,435 of them total, are either reference actions or someday/maybe actions. I am happy to ignore those for now.

The problem is that even with such a simple system, I cannot even get through the priority 1 tasks.

That’s because what I call “Priority 0” always get in the way… Priority 0 are things that I’m pulled towards working on.

In this list, the only tasks from Priority 1 that get done are those with deadlines. Any task that doesn’t have a deadline, even if it is @priority 1, I simply won’t get around to. And even when it has a deadline, I’ll do it the last possible day.

Now this may be a habit problem.

Realistically it takes away my motivation from maintaining the system to be updated, because when I use this system the only tasks that end up mattering are those Priority 0 tasks that I’m not even tracking.

Now, this is not that bad: When I look at the results, I end up accomplishing goals because the things that pull me I’m passionate about and I really push them forward enough to make a difference. And the priority 1 tasks still get done by the deadline.

How do you relate?

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I think the thing I’d look at is: what are those tasks that aren’t getting done? Do they need to get done? Are you truly committed to them? Do they need to get delegated?

If they need to get done, what’s stopping you? Are you needing to dedicate some time to it? If you don’t have time, can you delegate or automate them in some way?

I’d imagine if you’re having tasks in your system you’re never getting to, it’s probably because of:

  • being over-committed and need to drop some responsibilities
  • procrastination if some of the work is hard or important
  • not truly being committed to the task/project
  • not being clear on what the thing is

What kinds of items are you seeing that aren’t getting done?

That all being said, if the work that’s truly urgent and/or important is getting done and beyond that you’re working on stuff you’re passionate about, I don’t see a problem with that. I often focus on getting the stuff I need to get done first, then the stuff I want to get done after.

34 feels like way too many to me. What if you identified three things that you definitely commit to accomplishing tomorrow? Would that feel more doable, regardless of unanticipated “priority 0” stuff that may also come up?

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I’m all for identifying the 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks) for today. Everything’s important. Just pick 3 and don’t worry about it. Just get to it.

I’m also reserving time for these MITs. I have a target time block of 30-45 minutes on 1 MIT. I’ll try to set it for 9 am for myself. If I can get that done, I’ll be so (bleeping) happy.

It’s better to get something done instead of worrying about getting nothing done. I do spend a majority of my time in the @Priority-0 tasks because that’s the way life goes. In the Pre-COVID-19 era, I had the daily work rush in with customer walk-ins and emails coming in. But I would try to reserve at least a 30 minute block to work on something. Hopefully I can pass off @Priority-0 tasks to a colleague with the other standing that we’re helping each other. I give my colleague time to do their deep work while I take care of the load. Then he returns the favor in kind for me. I’m blessed to have great teammates.

But I do make sure I have a time block dedicated towards anything that’s not @Priority-0.

Yeah, I’d keep them hidden and don’t even have it register on my mind during the day. I tend to move reference actions and someday/maybe outside of my task manager. Is there some way you can move these low priority items out of your task manager? As long as you keep it in one place outside, that might help reduce the load of seeing 1,435 tasks that don’t need to be there for now. You’ll be able to review them later and consider what to add back into your active system.

For my life, I had dedicated each weekday towards one of the three priority groups. Perhaps I’ll work on @Priority-1 on Monday and then work on @Priority-3 on Tuesday. Wednesdays will be catching up on any extra @Priority-0 tasks that have started to accumulate since Monday. I can work on @Priority-2 on Thursdays. Fridays is catching up on more @Priority-0 tasks.

Each day i focused on a different group of priorities. I keep a buffer to make sure I can hit the @Priority-0 tasks that will always pop up in email, Slack, voicemail, or walk-in customers.

I have a 9 am time block for at least 30 minutes but it can go up to 2.5 hours to work on a Big Rock or one of the priority groups. I have another 30 minute-2.5 hour time block in the afternoon to continue work on the chosen priority group or Big Rock.

As long as I can theme a day and choose which priority group to work on today, I think I’m happy.

Heck, now that we’re in shelter-in-place, I had today set for yard work. Tomorrow, I’m working on some Lynda.com self improvement courses. The day after tomorrow, I think I’m going to do some roof work. All I know is that I can switch groups if I can. There will be some days where I will just stick with one priority group for the next 2-3 days. But I try to balance the week between the different priority groups.

Plan your week. Choose the 3 themes or weekly goals. This might be your different priorities. Pick a priority to focus on for each day. It’s harder to switch between the different priority groups because it feels like I’m spreading myself thin.

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I keep the mornings for admin tasks, and the afternoon for specific coding projects. Until lockdown (4th week now) the mornings were spent commuting along the sea front to Costa’s in the harbour where I would spend a couple of hours with the laptop or iPad. (seems a long time ago now)…

I really do not think picking three tasks is practical for a lot of people, particularly those of us self employed. I have a lot of client admin tasks, email, social media, support tasks etc. As well as my own work tasks, hence I set the mornings aside. I do have three projects I try to work on in the afternoon (coding work usually), the most important first, then the next and if time the third.

If you can move the chosen three (and sometimes these get swapped out for the “one off” or urgent things that come in) forward even if only a little every day you will get progress.

I am lucky in that I have virtually no meetings ever, I do schedule 30 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon for calls that need to be made, but that’s about it. To me most meetings are a complete waste of time and could and should be handled either by a call or email. Also luckily as a self employed person working remotely in another country from 95% of my clients, I am not subject to corporate politics and bulls**t :wink:

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