The 5 principles of $10K Task Management

“Those waves are heavy!”

When it comes to surfing, heavy is not usually a good thing. Take a look at the brave soul below trying to get out to the waves at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

It’s windy. It’s cold. There’s water everywhere. The whitewater tosses you like a rag doll; the current acts like a giant washing machine. You’ve drank gallons of ocean water. And your shoulders burn with lactic acid.

It takes this surfer 45 minutes just to get to the wave.

The opposite of heavy is clean. Or glassy. Glassy waves unfurl delicately like they’ve been hand carved into the ocean.

They’re consistent, smooth, and turquoise green. Surfing them makes you feel like an ice skater with freshly cut skates on an untouched rink.

Glassy conditions are a surfer’s paradise.

Yesterday, we compared the work days of $10 Tim and $10K Tina. Tim’s day was heavy.

Because of his poor planning and incessant multi-tasking, Tim spent the day behind the 8-ball. He ended the day disappointed and defeated.

Meanwhile, Tina was surfing EPIC glassy conditions. She was graceful, productive, and serene. But most importantly, she was carving her way towards her most important priorities and her biggest dreams.

Both Tim and Tina are talented and experienced professionals. Yet what separates the two of them? An integrated system to help them navigate the demands of modern digital life.

When designed correctly, this system will:

  • Help you tackle the “big” things (without dwelling on the “small” things)
  • Create a plan to help you stay on track all year
  • Focus your precious energy on the things that light you up
  • Create a happier and less stressed life
  • Give you the gift of never feeling rushed

So how do we go from heavy to glassy?

Introducing $10K Task Management

$10K Task Management is an over-arching philosophy to design an epic and intentional life.

It’s an integrated system to mobilize and propel you towards your most ambitious goals. A system that keeps you accountable for your values and nudges you to get a little bit better โ€” every single day.

Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Use a consistent Capture Inbox

“Your mind is made for having ideas, not holding them,” wrote David Allen in the 2003 classic Getting Things Done.

Yet as we’re peppered with emails, tasks, meeting requests, ideas and deadlines – our minds quickly devolve into a leaky sieve.

These “open loops” as Allen calls them are the root of our daily stress and anxiety.

How can we close these loops?

Ten Dollar Tim tries the hack-y method of: emailing himself and writing things down on the back of a used envelope. This fragmented approach is mentally taxing. Something WILL fall through the cracks. And, it’s heavy AF.

Meanwhile, $10K Tina has adopted two long-standing capture devices: A Moleskine Notebook (analog) and the ToDoist app (digital). (The system, is tool agnostic.) Every single task and idea goes into one of these two inboxes. Full stop.

And as a result, Tina has the confidence that her ideas are always being stored safely in the same place.

She trusts the system, which creates a positive feedback loop.

Step 2: Assign tasks to projects and domains

Typically in a task management system, you input a task directly onto a list.

So Change the smoke alarm would go on the Home List.

And Increase my retirement account contribution would go onto the Finances List.

Following the lead of Getting things Done, $10K Task Management adds an extra step – the capture inbox described in Step 1.

This extra step gives you the peace of mind that all your tasks have been safely captured. But it comes at an incremental cost.

Why? Because you need to clear out your Task Inbox at the end of each day.

But first, we need to take a little detour into the task lists themselves – and familiarize ourselves with the land of Projects and Domains.

In traditional task management, very little thought is put into the list themselves. We see that with $10 Tim, he just has two lists: Personal and Work.

$10K Task Management requires you to be intentional in your definition of these lists. Each list can be either a Project or a Domain. Most of us are familiar with projects, but less knowledgeable about domains (aka as Horizons of Focus, Areas of Responsibility, and Pillars).

Specifically, this means that:

  • Projects: Have a deliverable and a due date
  • Domains: An ongoing and minimum standard

So if you look at $10K Tina’s lists, you’ll see she has: Train for 10K (the race, not the framework silly). This is a project with an end date (i.e. the day of the race) and a deliverable (run the race).

Tina also has a domain called: My Health. This domain, does not have an end date because there’s a minimum standard that needs to be maintained over time. Tina knows that tending her health never ends.

Domains are home to the pesky category of Important but not Urgent. Just as Tim brushed off his daughter’s attempt to do put a puzzle together, they’re very easy to hit snooze on – but the future price of avoidance can be quite heavy.

Step 3: Use very specific meta-data

What made Tina’s day so glassy? Her ability to effortlessly have the right task find her at exactly the right moment. How’d she pull that off?

By adding meta-data.

Just like the Capture Inbox step, $10K Task Management adds another tiny bit of friction to the process, this time by adding meta-data.

But it’s worth it.

These pieces of meta-data enable you to slice and dice through your tasks like a snowboarder on a fresh day of powder. Let’s look at each type:

First, let’s start with due dates. We’ve written before why fake due dates are not allowed:

You can only use Due Dates if thereโ€™s a severe penalty for not hitting the deadline

Paying your rent. Buying your spouse a birthday gift. If you fail either of these tasks, there are significant consequences. Therefore a due date is acceptable.

However, scheduling your annual physical or spending 1:1 time with each of your kids does not merit a due date. Why? Your brain is too clever for that chicanery.

Now just because a task doesn’t have a due date, doesn’t lessen its importance. In fact, tasks without due dates are often more important than those with due dates.

Next, we get to the rest of meta-data. These tags enable you can filter your tasks such that the right ones find you.

Tina starts her day using this meta-data, specifically pulling up her $10,000 per hour work โ€“ developing her sales strategy or pitching a WSJ journalist on her company’s new launch.

When Tina’s running into a meeting with her direct reports, she can pull up the context DR-Jane or DR-Francis to see all the tasks that require their input. (Remember, the open loops?)

If Tina’s got a long drive, she can pull up the context Phone to see her call list. (Mom, Accountant and her college roommate are all owed calls.)

And when itโ€™s past 3pm and Tina’s feeling feeling Low Energy, she can pay her utility bill, schedule her physical and start collecting those pesky 1099 tax forms.

Tags let optimize your tasks across the dimensions that matter to you. Ensuring that you get the RIGHT stuff done.

Step 5: Making it all stick

If the absence of due dates is making your knees buckle, rest assured; there’s a series of safety valves to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

The weekly Review. This time-tested tactic will also be used to conquer a common nemesis: Shiny New Toy Syndrome.

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