May 4, 2011
As you may know, ToodleDo is the tasks software I recommend you use if you cannot use Outlook for tasks. It actually has a few advantages over Outlook. Here’s one advantage that I like: it has an optional priority level higher than “High” —it’s called “Top.” And there is one very good way you can put that optional Top level to work for you: indicating Significant Outcomes.
Normally in MYN I say to ignore any priority levels other than Low, Medium, and High in ToodleDo. That’s because MYN only needs three priority levels to map to its three MYN urgency zones, and using too many priority levels can be distracting.
But the Top priority in ToodleDo is a good way to show Significant Outcomes, or SOCs for short. You may recall SOCs from my books (see pg 140 of the new 3rd edition of the Outlook book for example, or pg 98 of Master Your Workday Now). But briefly, SOCs are the bigger things you intend to work on or accomplish in the near future. They are the current projects or goals that you want to make sure you keep your attention on in between meetings and urgency-driven work. You intend to keep recurring work going on them so you can make progress on them. These don’t fit well in most to-do lists because they tend to get lost in the long list of small actions—they need more prominent visibility. They don’t work for High in MYN since High=Critical Now, which are tasks that must be done today; most SOCs are not critically due today. And they’d get lost in the Opportunity Now section.
Entering in ToodleDo
So I suggest you use the Top priority in ToodleDo to list and display your SOCs prominently. Enter them just like other ToodleDo tasks; then, just before you save them, assign the Top priority from the same drop-down menu you normally use for ToodleDo priorities.
After you enter tasks with a Top priority, they group in the upper portion of the task list in ToodledDo as shown in the figure above; notice the “Top” label in the upper left corner of the red box below. This prominent location makes sure you glance at them often.
Not Next Actions
Using SOCs like this emphasizes something else too in MYN. In my books I say that nearly all tasks in the MYN to-do list should be entered as next actions, which are small steps that help progress your tasks. This is something also emphasized in GTD by the way. But SOCs are different; since they are bigger things, they clearly are not next actions. Using the Top priority gives you a way to emphasize the difference. I point that out in the diagram above.
GTD users may wonder: “so is the SOC list the same as the Projects list in GTD?” No, that’s a much bigger list. Think of the SOC list as only listing your bigger projects and goals, and only ones that are active this week.
Start Using SOCs
So start using SOCs today. If you do not use ToodleDo, then find other ways to indicate them. In Outlook one way to do that is to place them in a non-blocking week-long appointment in the calendar (see pg 142 of the 3rd edition of the Outlook book for more information). And if you are using the paper MYN to-do list, see the level 3 templates as described on pg 98 of Master Your Workday Now.
Focusing on SOCs helps you rise above the fray, so go for it.
[Update for mobile devices: If you are syncing into an iPhone, the above works great. But if you have an Android and are using Pocket Informant, not so great, since PI does not recognize the Top priority (it remaps those to High). In that case one way to handle is to make SOCs a High priority task, and then put the code SOC: at the front of the subject line. Or create in ToodleDo a Folder tag called SOC, assign it to your SOC tasks, and use the PI Folders filter when you want to take a peek at your SOC’s.