Focusing on tasks and getting them done is crucial. This simple fact is so easy to comprehend it’s a no brainer. But the reality is it’s much harder to accomplish than it sounds like. To organize my tasks I’ve been seeking methods for a long time. My favourite approach is J.D. Meier’s system which he describes in his book Getting Results the Agile Way (http://gettingresults.com). It’s freely available on this site. You can also purchase a hard-copy here.
The key of this system is choosing 3 most important tasks every day. This is very simple and easy to apply to real life. Another important aspect is 3 weekly goals. These are of course more complex tasks than the daily ones. Also an important point is reviewing the progress on Fridays. He calls this pattern Monday Vision, Daily Outcomes and Friday Reflection. This approach is very effective and realistic. The key to succeed with this system is being realistic. Know your limitations and don’t stuff your lists with everything you want to get done. It’s impossible to complete everything at once. If you pick 3 and actually get them done you feel better about yourself as the progress would be visible.
I also recommend an excellent episode of Hanselminutes which can be found here. That episode introduced me to Pomodoro technique which is a simple and effective way to boost performance and focus. The idea is dividing your tasks into small work units called Pomodoros which are 25 minutes (This is the default value. You can change it to your preference). During this 25 minutes you sever all your ties with the outside world (no email, no twitter, no nothing!) and focus on one task only. As focus-impaired people like me would know this is not very easy to do. I tried setting it an hour hoping that I’d get a big task done without any disruptions but ended up with getting lost along the way. So I believe the default value is quite realistic. After you complete the Pomodoro, you have a 5 minute break. I try to consider tasks in terms of Pomodoros. It helps me planning my daily outcomes too.