With traditional GTD-style methodology, during each day, you look at your current context and at your next action lists and choose what to do next. It’s easy, in this case, to fall into an infinite task loop where you are consistently accomplishing little actions from your next action lists but making little progress toward completing the big projects. This is what I call the Zeno’sParadox of Productivity. Give me any project, and I can fill days with easy, fun little tasks on the project without ever finishing them.
Here’s the reality: Real accomplishments require really hard pushes. GTD style, “one independent task at a time” productivity systems make it easy to avoid these pushes by instead doing a lot of little easy things.
Completion-centric planning rectifies this problem. It refocuses you on completion of projects “not tasks” as the central organizing principle for each day. This is how it works: –
Setup: Construct a Project Page
Using a single-paged document in your favourite work diary Or word processor and do the following:
- Make an Active Projects List
List 6 – 12 of the most important projects in your life. Pull from all three relevant spheres: professional (e.g., school or work related); personal (e.g., home, family, fitness); and extra (e.g., big projects like blogging, writing a book, starting a new hobby etc..etc).
- Label Each Project With A Completion Criteria
To quote David Allen, to finish a project you must “know what done looks like.” Next to each project type a concise description of what action must be completed for the project to be completed. (When you do this, you’ll notice how easy it was for you before to think about projects in a much more ambiguous, impossible to complete style).
- Label the Bottom Half of the Page as a “Holding Pen”
This is where you can jot down new projects that enter your life while you’re working on the active projects. They can be stored here until you complete the current batch.
Using the System: The Daily Check-In
Each morning, look at your project page and ask: “What’s the most progress I can make toward completing this list today?” Your biggest goal should be to complete projects. If you see a way to do it (even if it requires a big push, perhaps working late) go for it. If you can’t finish one, think of the single thing you could do that would get you closest to this goal over the next few days. Harbour an obsession for killing this list!
At the same time, of course, you should still reference your existing productivity system. Outside of your projects you probably have other, more mundane tasks that need to get done. Your goal here is to make as much progress on your projects as possible despite the other responsibilities you have each day.
Finishing: Rest and Reload
Don’t start new work/projects until you’ve finished the projects on your current work /project page. If you dynamically repopulate this list you are liable to let the least fun projects lie fallow indefinitely. If you come up with new project ideas before you complete the current active projects, simply jot them down in your holding pen.
Work as hard as possible to finish your projects as fast as possible. Once done, take a break for a week and try to do a minimum of work during this time. Do not underestimate the power of breaks, it’s extremely important to recharge yourself before you get into the next cycle of obsessive completion of the next task/ project. Then, once you’re ready, build a new project page and start over again.
Why This Works
The workflow rhythm required by completion-centric planning is as close as I can get to describing how really accomplished people tend to tackle their work. This approach doesn’t have the same effortless, autopilot appeal of a pure, GTD-style workflow. But, unfortunately, accomplishment is not pretty. If you want to make your mark, you have to learn how to charge after things with a furious zeal. This system will help you develop that trait
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