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When your Task Management System becomes Burdensome


Bury stuff in the sand

In the beginning it seems like our task management system of choice will be the perfect aid to keep projects on track or just simply to get simple things done. There really are three major systems to buy from if you’re a GTDr.

If you chose OmniFocus you chose the most complicated of the bunch. Things would be somewhere in the middle whereas The Hit List would probably be the simplest.

However, this article isn’t an article about the system you chose but rather how any of these systems are aiding you or enabling you or hampering you. Yes, that marvelous system that is supposed to get everything on track and make you a star might be doing the opposite and leading not to the stress reducer it’s supposed to be but a stress inducer.

When Things Start to Hamper

As I mentioned this article isn’t really about any system in particular nor methodology. However, when your system starts to work against your methodology which is designed to enable you to become more productive, then one has to question what is happening with the system,

Further, if you’re very busy but you find that your system for managing tasks is becoming so encumbering that you’re spending an inordinate amount of time on that system to do things rather than just doing things you have to pull your head from the sand and assess what’s happening.


About To Go Under

I didn’t notice I was going under until the point it was getting to the point of no return. That is, I was sinking slowly yet steadily throughout my course with my system that was supposed to keep my head above water.

Swim not sink

When You’re dealing with too many Todo’s

There’s a point that comes in this process where you notice you’re having trouble breathing (you might even be having panic attacks while taking fistfuls of valium). It could be due to the fact that your head is now submersed under the water of todo’s.


It’s really not just handling too many todo’s that’s at the heart of the problem. It’s also in the nature and quality of those items. When the todo’s require so much input that you almost need to be a scientist to input them then it’s no wonder you’re about to drown.


Death is Imminent Unless


We as human beings are faced with our mortality almost from the time we have consciousness. However, we probably never suspected it would be our task management approach that would lead to an untimely demise.

Untimely demise

Yet, if we look at some of the task management systems we are dealing with in our attempts to make life more sane it’s no wonder we’re becoming unglued if not insane.


What We’re Dealing With

To boil it down into a nutshell we’re dealing with the insane.


I wasn’t going to discuss programs specifically but for the purposes of this article it will help clarify exactly what is going on when we think we are trying to help ourselves become more productive whilst we’re doing the opposite.

Unproductive much better

To be clear though, to utilize a methodology and apply tools to bring about the result we want is totally logical and will definetly produce the kind of results we’re looking for. However, two major things are going on that work against this:

  • we’re creating far to many todo’s so that we’re awash in a sea of tasks that for even the most monumental of us would be overwhelming at best


  • The nature and quality of the task management system is far too complex and rich for most people’s needs. In this case, OmniFocus represents the best example of this as can be seen in the following diagram, which only depicts a small aspect of what one is dealing with in the program. However, OmniFocus is the most extreme in this regard. To be sure, many other programs are far too obtuse for practical purposes and something as simple as Apple’s Reminders program or Realmac software’s Clear are more than enough for many people’s needs.

Voila Capture 2014 06 27 04 33 38 PM

In fact, to bring some semblance of sanity to our systems that have not only taken over our lives but might actually be doing detriment to the quality of our lives, it might be wise to supplement or compliment the system we’re using with say Clear as an example thus averting the need for throwing the baby out with the bath water. That is, it might not be necessary to unplug say OmniFocus before the boys in their white coats come to take us off for a lengthy rest leave supplemented of course with lots of electroshock. Instead of creating 10,000 tasks in OmniFocus this month, you might only want to put the most important of your needs in that system and let yourself be reminded of the other stuff in a very easy to use task management system.


Shock or Clear


Unfortunately, the way people are using their task management systems is akin to an addiction. The more they use the system, the more they enhance on their use of the system till the person feels they can’t do without that which has run simply out of control.

Taking the system away is going to likely require something like rehab for task management addicts. However, it is really a question here of the need to shock the person so that they canclear the deck. The whole Getting things done ethos is with many merits. Yet, in the process systems have been created and we are using those systems in a way that are counterproductive to getting things done and to our happiness and health.

Simplify can’t be OverSimplified


With the appropriate rehab treatment which involves breaking through the denial the solution is simply to simplify your process. There is no need for industrial strength task management system to remember to take out the garbage.

If your a gtd’r what makes sense is to try to either choose the simplest of the Task Management systems and use it in conjunction with a simple reminders system or to use your GTD task management system lightly and simply utilizing as much as possible (and that’s a lot) a simple reminders system.

The Systems, the Solution


Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The problem is related to the use of systems and the solution is the changing or refinement of the use of the systems.

What is required here is likely the extensive use of a product like Reminders or Clear with the use of the most simple of the GTD systems or if this isn’t possible the simplification of the use of the complex GTD systems such as OmniFocus.

Use the GTD system cautiously in defining and carrying out projects. However, use the simple reminders system for tasks that don’t require tracking. In this case, use either Apple’s free Reminders program or Clear or something like Clear. These are very straightforward reminders systems that won’t cause you to get locked up in convoluted task management. It’s highly unlikely they will drive you insane.

These simple systems are very fast to use. You enter and task or reminder and when you do it you clear it off of your slate. Done. No gyrating about should this be here or there, part of this project or that and what context or tags should it have. Just a few words to remind you of something then done.

The big systems though are there to support more complex scenarios of which we have few. If we want these systems to remind us to walk the dog we’re applying a lot of complexity for something fairly trivial.

With rehab completed, new systems deployed and valued old ones put in their place sanity will return. Not to worry. There’s lots to drive us insane but let it not be our task management systems.

Tieing knot

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