One of the things I like about Mark Forster is that he’s clearly one of us, just trying to figure out how actually do the things you want to do. For instance, near the beginning of Do It Tomorrow, he confesses that no one was able to do the mental strength exercise from Get Everything Done, the one about setting yourself a task that you would definitely do the next day. Out of the mistakes and lessons of the previous book, Do It Tomorrow is the system that the author was groping toward.
I’m now two weeks into trying DIT (and no, you can’t have a system without three letters to name it), and I’m impressed with how easy it is to get started and how quickly I feel I am on top of things. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the book is the way it gives everything away on the first page in four steps.
- Declare a backlog. Take everything you’ve fallen behind on and put it where you can’t see it.
- As new work or ideas come in, write them down for tomorrow. At the end of the day, draw a line under the list to close it.
- Do all the work on your closed list each day. Since you’re going to do it all, the order doesn’t matter. If something can’t wait, write it under the line that closed the list and do it same day.
- Spend a few minutes clearing the backlog first thing every day. When you’re caught up, choose a “current initiative”, some kind of project with a goal, but without a deadline. Spend a little time on that first thing every day.
The rest of the book is about how to accomplish those four steps. You can get some of its ideas from his website and other discussions, but you really need the book to get the full argument. For instance, I didn’t really understand the “current initiative” until I finally read it. You start each day by concentrating on one selected initiative, a little at a time. How many current initiatives can you have? Well, how many things can you do first? One. Pick one current initiative and work on it until it’s done. Then you start the next one.
This does not mean open-ended work–like writing, exercising, or house-cleaning; these are better addressed by establishing routines. Since such projects tend to be repetitive, the best way to deal with them is to make them a daily habit by giving them a definite scheduled time during the day. Just as advised in How To Write A Lot.
The reason why DIT works is that on average, the amount of work coming in in one day should equal, on average, the amount of work you do in one day. Also, it’s not about putting things off; you have actually do the work you gave yourself the previous day. Finally the book offers lots of ways to trick yourself into getting started and advice for how to reboot if you go off the rails. One of the most interesting ideas is that if you do the least urgent things first, they won’t become urgent. Assuming you’re caught up.
Well, I’m feeling pretty caught-up right now. Wonder how long that will last?