Add the big picture to your todo list

Long term

Right now, you have agreed with yourself and others more than a fifty things to do. From changing the bulb in the kitchen to create the best product for your company. It’s easy to lose the meaning of the task after some days (Why do I have “Call James” on my call list?) or the priorities of tasks if you cannot connect them to the bigger picture. For example if the only thing about your child birthday is “Call the baker on flint street” and you give it the wrong priority you will end in big troubles. This is why you need to add the big picture to your todo list and this article explains how.

Long term

By introducing a project list, you’ll keep track of all the activities you’ve promised yourself and others to do in the next year. By doing this your todo list get an upgrade from a great tool to manage my “now”, to a vital tool that keeps me connected with all my tasks, big or small.

 How to add the big picture to your todo list

It’s another piece of paper, with the list of your project. By reading the project list your brain will elaborate in the background and will trigger moments like “Oups I really should call the baker now to get the cake ready” or “Yes, I’ve called the customer new I need to prepare a new offer for them”. This is particularly efficient if before reading your project list you have a look at all your todo lists, by doing this you are giving your brain some clues to help the trigger process. If you use Nozbe avery action is connected to a project, so no separate list.

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By doing a project list you will release your brain from trying (and failing) to remember every project, every action and every commitment. To create your initial project list I recommend yo to use this list of mental triggers.

[Advanced] For maximum efficiency answer 5 questions per project

If you want to get the best results, you need to answer 5 questions for each project. 

1 – Why am I doing this project?

  • If you don’t know – throw it away
  • If it breaks your values – throw it away far
  • If it’s an obligation – keep it
  • It it helps your personal goals – keep it and underline it
  • … add you selection of reasons to keep or throw away

2 – What will happen at the end of the project?

See the end of the project, better if you focus on the wild success of the project. Knowing what the end looks like serve two purposes:

  1. When you have the end in mind your brain will immediately start to search for ways to get there which is what we need for the next question
  2. When the vision become reality it’s time to remove the project from the list

3 – What are the ideas I’ve about this project? (Brainstorming)

Write down all your thoughts (triggered by the outcome visioning), write all your ideas, without order, without filtering, without fear. [shareable cite=”Linus Pauling”]“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”[/shareable]

4 – Which project path(s) do I have?

Take all the ideas generated during the brainstorming and organise them. You’ll find some patterns with elements that can be done in parallel, this is what I call a project path. You need at least one project path, but you can have multiple. If you can delegate every person/team can mange a different project path.

5 – What is the next action for each project path?

A next action is the next physical action that needs to be done to move the project or the project path forward – check this article for more details. You need one, only one next action per project path. The next action is often simple like “call Judy to get Roger’s number”, but it is a step toward completion. This action is what you put in your todo list. Remember the 2 minutes rule: if “call Judy to get Roger’s number” takes less than 2 minutes (depends on how long you usually to talk to Judy) you should do it now and find the next action, which in this case can be “call Roger about his availability for project X” or “Define agenda for the conversation with Roger”, which again might be a less than 2 minutes task.

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Why it works

The 5 phases of project planning follow the way your brain works.

  • Give your brain a destination (Vision) and it will create a path, multiple paths (right brain in action)
  • Organise and select the more interesting one (left brain)
  • Write down the next action (so your brain can forget it)
  • Move to something else with no stress

With this method you can have 100+ projects and still feel in control and be in control.

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