Create your Day Focus list in MYN

Dec 15, 2011

Here’s one solution to spending too much time in your e-mail, which is a bad habit that even practiced MYN users can get into.

Why is the e-mail trap so easy to fall into?

One reason we end up reading e-mail all day long, and so not getting our “real” work done, is because e-mail incorrectly answers the question “what should I do next?” It’s just so easy to keep reading the next e-mail that’s in our list, and then the next and the next. It’s right in front of us and it feels like we are busy and occupied and doing good work. But it diverts us from putting our real work in front of us, and focusing on it.

Here is one way to get your real work clearly “in your face” right from the start so you work on it first. It is to start each day creating what I call the Day Focus list, and you can do that right inside the MYN task list.

What is the Day Focus list? The Day Focus list is simply the MYN Critical Now list combined with the MYN Target Now—these two together make up the Day Focus list in MYN.

As an MYN user you already know what the Critical Now list is; it’s those things absolutely due today—it’s the High priority in Outlook and ToodleDo. But you may not have used the Target Now list before. Target Now is an optional part of my MYN training and a very small part of the Outlook book. If you want to read more about Target Now, see the first part of Lesson 9 in the Outlook book. Briefly, the Target Now list identifies those items within the Opportunity Now section (medium priority) that you intend to get to today. They are essentially your most important Opportunity Now tasks.

So the MYN Day Focus list is those two things combined—the Critical Now list plus the Target Now list. The top part of this clearly shows what you must do today, and then the lower part what you really want to do (but may not get to). Here’s how that looks:

Why is this needed?

This is needed because it adds focus to your optional list. We can get lazy with a task list that has a lot of optional items—ones that continue on our list from day to day; it’s easy to just let them continue on forever. By creating the Target Now section each day, we focus our attention and make a significant commitment to working on those optional tasks. And by combining that with Critical Now, we now have a two-part “daily” list to strive toward completing.

As a current MYN user, the key addition here is you adding the Target Now process every day—it takes daily maintenance. Why? Because as shown in the Outlook book, in Outlook (and in ToodleDo by the way), the Target Now list is designated by those tasks that have a start date of today and that section clears itself each day (tomorrow all those tasks will have a start date one-day old). So in Outlook the underlines go away and in ToodleDo the “Today” status disappears. The process then is each day you need to recreate the list by setting the start date of you most important Opportunity Now tasks to today. Obviously this does take some work, but it’s good work since it forces you to rethink your list every day and make sure you have the right focus.

I encourage you to give this Day Focus list process a try. I think you’ll find it helps beat the e-mail obsession many of us have all day long, and allows us to get more of our real work done each day.


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6 Responses to Create your Day Focus list in MYN

  1. This is great. I had already started doing this before reading this post, not realizing it was a canonical part of the MYN system.

    Alas, I bought your Manage Your Workday Now Kindle ebook, but haven’t completed it. Opening it now, I see there’s great descriptions of how to use the Target Now list … and it just so happens to be how I’m using it!

    Really, your system is quite logical, even obvious, once one has used it for a while. It’s the best system I’ve tried, including GTD and Mark Forster’s many excellent ruminations.

  2. Bernard says:

    Is there a way to do this with Toodledo?

  3. Michael Linenberger says:

    Yes the article applies equally to ToodledDo. See second to last paragraph. Just use start date equal to today.

  4. Is there a way to do this with Toodledo?

    I just use Top-Priority for Critical Now and High-Priority for Target Now. Of course, that means you can’t use Top-Priority for Significant Outcomes, but that’s what I chose.

    On the other hand, I’m taking a look at Part II and Part III of Master Your Workday Now and have the following tasks set up, of which I’ve only regularly been doing the first:

    • “Control” review and plan [Critical Now list, repeat daily]

    • “Control” review and plan: Over-the-Horizon [Target Now list, repeat weekly]

    • “Create” review and plan [Opportunity Now list, repeat monthly]

    • “Connect” review and plan [Opportunity Now list, repeat monthly]

    (I put the first word of each in quotation marks both because they’re quotes of the terms Michael uses for his MYN system and in parts I, II, and III of his book, but also to sort them to the top of the list so I remember to do my daily control planning nearly first thing.)

    Also, I went away from Michael’s prioritization by urgency scheme for a while -although I still really benefited from his “how to use Toodledo” tips – in favour of importance/urgency prioritization, again using Toodledo’s 4-positive priorities, Top to Low, with “Negative” then and still being my “Dependent-On” list — stuff I want to remember but can’t do until something else happens first, including me completing a task or what have you. This works well, by the way.

    What didn’t work so well is importance/urgency-matrix prioritization. I reread Michael’s section on this and I realized he’s right.

    What I might recommend as an alternative to importance/urgency prioritization as such if you’re using Toodledo is enabling the Star feature, not sorting by it, and if there’s any task you feel is particularly important to your bigger picture desires, starring that task. You’re using this method of starring as an importance-overlay over the urgency prioritization, as Michael teaches in part I of MYN.

    That said, I actually personally use starring differently. Certain repeating tasks have what I refer to as a “density”.

    A simple example: If you fail to clean your house on Monday and you usually do so Monday and Thursday, and on Thursday you actually DO clean your house … then there’s no point in doing it twice. That would be silly.

    But if your goal is to work out an average of twice a week and you miss your Monday workout (set up with its own “repeat weekly on Monday” task), but you do your Thursday work out (set up with its own “repeat weekly on Thursday” task), then later that week or early the following week, completing the missed-workout task still makes sense and is beneficial to your overall progress, please strength train requires a certain density of training. Likewise if your goal was to walk for 3 hours a week, broken down into smaller repeating tasks – you could possibly just go for a long hike on the weekend if it worked that way and take care of missed walks during the week.

    The same idea can be applied for non-fitness tasks.

    That’s what I’m doing, but for most people, the “importance-overlay” starring is probably more useful, and in any case, more canonically-covered by Michael in MYN.

  5. * I actually intend to do the below semiannually, but that’s subject to change:

    “Connect” review and plan [Opportunity Now list, repeat semiannually]

  6. lol @ odd typo

    “please” = “because”

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