Mark Forster has written a number of books on time management and productivity. I’ve recently read his latest, Secrets of Productive People. I particularly like the way he challenges some of the myths or at least sayings that you often hear on these matters. One rather simple but key point is that it’s often tempting to take on more than you can actually expect to do. One suggestion he makes for handling this is coming up with an Authorised Projects List.
There are basically two reasons for the list, one a positive one, and one a negative one
The positive is to keep you aware of all the calls on your time so that you can ensure that each project receives adequate attention.
The negative is that a project is as much about what you are not going to do as about what you are going to do. The list therefore keeps you focused on the projects on the list and stops you from deviating onto other “bright ideas”. You should not allow yourself to put any task on your to-do list which doesn’t relate to one of these projects.
The Authorised Projects list also helps you to avoid over-committing yourself. If you want to introduce a new project you need to be able to demonstrate what projects have ceased or have been weeded out in order to make room for the new project.
I’ve found this quite helpful. Firstly it forces you to think through what your major projects actually are (a useful exercise in it’s own right) and then, when a new idea pops up, to cross check whether it’s on the list.
This is related to the powerful concept of firmly and clearly saying ‘no’ to opportunities, which crops up in many different business circumstances. See, for example, ‘Saying No Effectively‘.