When a task or project list gets too long, you go numb to it. You look at it and the very thought of trying to tackle it makes you turn away from it. On the other hand, when you have too many lists, you may just give up and fall off the GTD wagon. How can you find the sweet spot for your lists?
Stick with a specific number. Since reading a post by Scott H Young entitled The Six Keys for Writing a Kick-ass To-Do List, I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot. He suggests that you keep your lists at no more than seven items. Once you get to more than seven items, find a way to sub-divide the list. I agree with the idea but find that for me “10” seems to be the magic number. 10 or less, the list feels doable for me. More than 10 and I start to go numb to it. Experiment with this and let me know what number seems to work for you. Since implementing this technique, I’m feeling more in control of my lists and consequently my days.
Date everything buy only look at today. My one significant departure from standard GTD methodology is that I don’t believe in Someday/Maybe lists (see The End Of Someday/Maybe ). I give every task a due date. That date might be 6 months out but I give it a date. However, that leads to a very long list. If I look at all my tasks, it’s about 300 items. However, I have set up my system so that I only see what’s due today when I’m working my list. I want to focus on what needs to be done today and not be distracted by future tasks. I use Microsoft Outlook to manage my tasks. For more info on the best way to set up Outlook to manage your tasks, see Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook: The Eight Best Practices of Task and E-Mail Management.