This post is mostly thinking out loud about mental models for task management. I post here since this forum is safe place to nerd out, and I would love any insight or feedback offered by others.
I have 4 places that represent “Work I need to do”:
- My TODO’s in Roam Reseach, split in a dashboard between personal and work things
- My calendar
- My head, taking up mental space
My TODO’s tend to pile up, as do my beemergencies, until I have to take a big chunk of time and deal with them all. I’d like to have more continuous, predictable throughput.
I’m inspired by this post by the CEO of Levels on how he has replaced his TODO list with a calendar. Switching from a TODO list with infinite capacity (visually, at least) to a calendar seems seems like switching to model that better reflects reality. It seems like the same kind of change my family made when switching from living off credits cards to Qube Money, where we are forced to think about how we allocate every dollar in our budget before we swipe at checkout (I should write about this eslewhere, as I think other bees would be into it!), and are presented with the visual tools to do so on the fly.
At the risk of becoming this meme, I’ll digress into analogizing my task management with computer memory management.
A TODO list with unspecified capacity can be likened to a Turing machine which has unlimited memory. Sure, with infinite time and infinite memory, you can do a lot, but that doesn’t help me plan my day very effectively.
The calendar method can be likened to a limited manual memory management model. I literally
alloc some specific time for every individual task, being careful not to over allocate (and the
dealloc happens automatically as the clock goes by, so that’s nice - a nice affordance granted by the compiler I guess). I have a fixed size heap - 24 hours in a day, multiplied by the furthest out I would ever schedule something in advance. For reasons of locality and latency, 99% of the work seems to get scheduled within the first 2 weeks of space though, and I struggle greatly to pack everything in! Estimation of the size of each task is hard, but that’s a problem we can address separately.
So I guess what I want is a kind of automatic ~memory~time management whenever possible. How can I get it?
My first thought is that I’d like two different systems: I’d like the bulk of work to be scheduled on the calendar, but I’d like to have a fixed-capacity TODO list (which I beemind to ensure it stays within bounds).
But here I might make a mistake by overscheduling such that there is not enough room in the calendar to handle the TODO list. So I’ll have to attach estimates to TODO items and beemind not the number of TODO’s but the sum of all of the estimates.
As I write this, I realize I’m sort re-discovering the GTD algorithm, where if a task is estimated to take more than 2 min you must either schedule in your calendar or append it to your stack of “next actions”. Maybe that’s what I missed in my first reading of GTD - the “next actions stack” has a weight limit, after which you must allocate on the calendar.
So, to conclude this stream of consciousness, I guess my action items are as follow:
- Make a personal “stack weight limit” goal that I beemind. Let’s say it’s 8 hours/week.
- Schedule 8 hrs week into my calendar just to focus on whittling down that stack.
- Make a rule that TODO’s can’t go into Roam without some kind of task estimation.
Should I track how accurate the task estimation is? Not sure - I guess I’ll need to read what’s going on in How to measure time calibration skill?