Feb 15, 2011
For those of you who have been using my MYN system for a while (MYN is the advanced form of the One Minute To-Do List—1MTD; see this page for more info on the two), I want to point out something important. I want to emphasize the difference between Defer-to-Do and Defer-to-Review. It is a rather subtle point, and you’ll likely consider it only after you’ve been using the MYN system a while. But it’s something that I encounter every day when I manage my MYN to-do list, and I suspect you do to, without realizing it. So it’s worth a blog post to explain it.
Here’s the scenario. You are trying to clean up the Opportunity Now section of your MYN to do list (the medium or normal priority section). You want to remove items that you really don’t need to focus on today or even this week, and trim that list so it is nice and compact (fewer than 20 items). Other than deleting tasks, there are two ways to do that. You can move an item down to the low priority section (Over the Horizon) and set it to a future Monday start date so that you review it later. That’s what Defer-to-Review is (more details here). The other choice is you can leave it at the medium priority and just set the start date to the future to hide it for a while; that’s what Defer-to-Do is.
When do you use which? Well, you should use Defer-to-Do only if you really intend to do the action on the date that you have deferred it to. Use this with tasks that you feel are pretty important and you really do hope to do them at that future date. In contrast, with Defer-to-Review, all you are committing to do is to review that task on its future date, knowing there is a good likelihood that you may not get it done then, and that you’ll likely defer it off again.
Again this distinction is a bit subtle but it’s important. Why? Well, if you treat too many items as Defer-to-Do tasks, meaning you leave them at normal priority and just set the date ahead, you’re going clog up your Opportunity Now list as these items keep reappearing in your list. When overused, you’ll find the Opportunity Now list will consistently exceed 20 items, and then you’ll start missing some important items because you lose track of them.
So be conservative with using Defer-to-Do. Only use it if you truly think you will have a good shot at doing that task on the day that you postpone it to. In contrast, if there is a good chance you’re just going to set the date ahead again on that date, then bite the bullet and use Defer-to-Review instead. In fact, I recommend you use Defer-to-Review much more often than Defer-to-Do. It will keep your MYN list much more focused.