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Organizing work v. doing work

The Project Management Paradox – Jamie Todd Rubin:

The paradox of all of this is that I am spending time trying to figure out how to manage my to-do list when I should be doing the things on that list. Over the years I have tried many task management systems and tools: David Allen’s Getting Things Done; Evernote; todotxt, todoist, bullet journals, and on and on. None of them have stuck permanently. The two best in terms of effectiveness and longevity were todoist and todotxt, and I think that is because they are relatively simple systems.

Having spent a good number of years myself cycling through a bunch of different planning, organizational, and task management systems and methodologies, I have come to a few conclusions.

FIrst, the simpler the system you use, the better. I know everyone likes to fiddle with smart lists and reminders and sub tasks and whatnot, but most of these features are unnecessary cruft.

Second, find the system that works for you. Most of the people promoting these difference tools and methodologies, or creating lengthy YouTubes about them are not actually interested in whether the system works, but rather in whether they can use the promotion of it as a means to grow their own brand and get you to click on their affiliate links.

Third, the most important aspect of any of these systems is whether they help you stay sane and get your work done. As Rubin points out, it is way to easy to spend more time fiddling with and managing your todo system than you do actually doing the work.

There is a group of people—over-represented online, I think—for whom task management, time tracking, and todo lists are a hobby. They enjoy trying out every new app, constantly fiddling with their lists, or checking out the latest modification to bullet journaling in their fancy new notebook. There is nothing wrong with that—I have some of those tendencies myself—but we should not confuse it with actually doing work.

As rampant as this tendency is in the realm of personal productivity, it is exponentially worse in the business/corporate world, but that would require a whole other post.

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