Appointments vs. Tasks, a Review and a New Idea
I want to review some “rules” in MYN and 1MTD for separating tasks from appointments because many readers get confused on this and drop tasks as a result. Then I want to present a new idea that a reader recently shared with me that sort of violates the rules but I think is really good.
Review: Appointments vs. Tasks
Some people new to MYN and 1MTD wonder shouldn’t they simply list all their tasks on their calendar for the day, either at specific times or at the top? Isn’t that a proactive thing to do and won’t that ensure that the tasks get done?
Well, as you may know, in MYN and 1MTD I recommend you use the Calendar only for actions that are time-of-day specific, and use your Tasks system for all items that are not time specific. So for example, if you have a task “Call John” and the best time to call him is right after lunch, then yes create an appointment for 1 PM on your calendar. But if you can call him at any time during the day then don’t create an appointment; rather just put it on your task list in the right priority slot. That’s the general rule: time-of-day specific items go on the calendar. All else goes on the task list.
Random Times Are Disrespected
One reason for this rule is that we tend to skip appointments we make only with ourselves. For most of us, if we list tasks randomly on the calendar, unfortunately when the arbitrary time arrives we too often say to ourselves, “This was just a random time I chose. I have momentum on this other current thing, so I’ll come back to that one later” and so we skip it. Or we simply think, “I am too busy.” Or if someone walks into our office at that time and wants our time, it’s too easy to give it to them because the task appointment is just with our self. In all these cases, we skip the scheduled task.
Main Problem: Dropped Tasks
The main problem with this is that once we blow away such a task appointment, the task is gone, and it’s likely that we will forget to reschedule the task to another time, so we drop the task.
And even if you do try to reschedule it, it is cumbersome to repeatedly be reassigning tasks to various timeslots, particularly if most of them are small actions. It will end up driving you crazy as you skip and reschedule them over and over again, and too many tasks will get dropped.
Favor the Task List
This is why I strongly recommend that you simply keep tasks on your task list (prioritized in urgency zones per MYN or 1MTD) and continue referring to that list per the system’s review cycles. That way the items remain in plain sight all the time, in their correct priority slots, until you complete them. A task list really is the way to go for such types of actions-—not the calendar.
However, you also may know that I do have some standard exceptions to that rule in MYN and 1MTD. For example, I do recommend you consider blocking out large sections of time on your calendar each day called “Tasks” so that you have time set aside to work down your task list.
And I’ve taught that if a particular task will take quite a bit of time to do then, yes, you may want to block out some time for that one task on your calendar just to make sure you have time set aside. That’s particularly useful if the time is set just prior to the deadline for the task; that way you are less likely to blow it away.
So that’s a review of the standard teachings of MYN and 1MTD regarding tasks vs. appointments, and I hope it helps clear some things up for you.
A Recent Suggestion to Violate the Rules
Now, that said, a reader suggested to me recently a very interesting way to violate those rules, and it’s a good one.
He said this (I paraphrase): “In Windows Outlook, drag a task from your task list to your calendar to suggest a time to work on it.”
At first I rejected the idea, for the reasons above. But then after I thought about it and how to do it, I liked it. It does provide good value and it doesn’t lead to the problems above. Here is how this would work.
In general, I recommend that each morning you glance at your task list and your calendar and roughly strategize your day. With the reader's suggestion, you would add the following step to that. And by the way, for technical reasons this is best done in Windows Outlook desktop version (though it can work in other systems if you simply type into the calendar).
First, as a set up for this in Windows Outlook (if you are using that) you should add the To-Do Bar task list to your calendar view (in the calendar view, go to the View tab, choose To-Do Bar, and choose Tasks). Next, switch your calendar view to the Day view (do that either from the Home tab or the View tab).
Now here is how this would work. In your quick morning planning session, open the calendar and look at your task list in the To-Do Bar at its right edge. For certain tasks that seem important or eligible, drag them to the calendar to a specific time slot when you want to work on them. Then “try” to do them when that time arrives. That’s it.
When you drag tasks like that, Windows Outlook will automatically assign the task to that timeslot. What avoids the dropped task problem I described above is that Outlook will also leave that item on your task list. If you are not using Windows Outlook (so no drag and drop), then copy the item from your task list to your calendar, but leave it on the task list too.
The reason this works is the time assignment is just a suggestion. So if you blow away the time assignment, no problem, the task is still prominently listed in your MYN or 1MTD tasks. And if you do complete it in the designated timeslot, the next time you see it on your task list you’ll remember it’s done and remove it. It’s a nice idea.
Don’t use it too much though-—only for certain tasks—otherwise your calendar will become a blur. But it shouldn’t lead to dropped task issues and can help you focus on important work.
And it’s completely optional, which is good because you don’t want to make your work systems too complicated otherwise you won’t do them. If you are very busy one morning and don’t do a planning review and time assignment, no problem, the tasks are still on your task list.
My thanks go out to David Morrison for the suggestion. More Windows Outlook tips from David here.