I have a lot of boring tasks that I try to ignore but I can’t. These tasks fill up my bucket like little rocks until my bucket gets full and I don’t have room to take care of my Big Rocks. The dirty dishes growing in the kitchen sink. The pile of dirty laundry gathering up in my laundry baskets. The mold and grime that accumulates in the bathroom. The refrigerator needs to be replenished with new groceries on a weekly basis. The weekly/monthly status reports for my work projects. I can ignore these administrative (or repeating) tasks but there are people in my life who hold me accountable for these various maintenance tasks and projects. It keeps piling up until I roll up my sleeves until I start tackling these small rocks one by one.
I’ve been frustrated when I can’t seem to get to my Big Rock projects because Life throws in all of those annoying tasks that interrupts my flow. A client walks into the office and suddenly sucks up my whole morning. One of the kids fell down at school and I need to re-arrange my appointments so I can tend to my child. My Big Rock projects also get interrupted when I see that pile of admin tasks (paperwork, miscellaneous tasks) that scream at me to be taken care of. But that’s OK. OmniFocus is the perfect tool to keep me on track. OmniFocus remembers all of the pending routine tasks and today’s new requests for me so that I can return back and figure out what needs to be done after all the dust settles. When I complete my admin tasks, I can easily return back to my Big Rock projects.
The Admin Routines folder (routine maintenance tasks)
I like to group all my routine tasks into Single Actions Lists (SAL) inside the Admin Routines folder. Grouping all of the routine tasks separates it from the one-off tasks the Life will throw at me every day.
Here is a sample of one of my Routine SALs
I created an Admin Routines folder in OmniFocus and group my routine tasks according to different Areas of Responsibilities in my life. When my repeating task list gets too long, it might be a worthwhile venture to group them into different SALs. In my example, I keep my House Routine tasks separate from my Office Routine tasks.
I like to add the repeat interval at the end of the task title for tasks in the Admin Routine SALs. For example, I would use the title “take trash can to the curb [Wed]” to remind myself that this task should be done every Wednesday. I also have “lawn mowing [21 days]” to remind myself that task repeats every 21 days. I can see the repeat interval in the task title easily without needing to check the inspector panel.
The Admin Actions folder (single action maintenance tasks)
Life loves introducing those one-off tasks that drops a little rock into our bucket list. These little rocks start weighing down the bucket and accumulates over time until we finally do something about it. My wife might call me to pick up some orange juice, cereal, and some bacon for breakfast tomorrow. I need to put some fresh AA batteries into my remote control but I ran out of stock at the house. I need to replace my coffee maker which broke down yesterday. These single actions tend to float around in my mind and I need to capture it into the appropriate SAL.
Most of my Admin Routine SALs are set to be reviewed once every two weeks. They don’t change very often but it is nice to just double check them every couple of weeks to make sure nothing gets missed,
Separating Admin Tasks from Big Rock Projects
I have a constant struggle between working on my Big Rock projects and my admin work. I want to work on my Big Rocks because that’s where all the fun is! I am working towards a goal that will improve my life in some fashion. But I also need to pay attention to my general housekeeping and maintenance tasks that will ensure my quality of life remains at its current state.
I try to schedule at least one hour each day towards performing admin work. Those are my “frogs” that I have to eat. I don’t like doing them because they are often boring tasks that keeps the status quo. By devoting at least one hour (typically early morning) daily towards admin work, I can ensure that I am keeping up on this rolling treadmill and I don’t fall too far behind.
The @adMin perspective
When I want to focus on admin work, I go to my @adMin perspective. Here are my settings.
I have this perspective grouped by context because I like to work in batches based on context. Here are the main groups in the OmniFocus main outline that I will be working on today if I wanted to do admin work. This perspective will focus on my Admin Routines folder (repeating tasks lists) and my Admin Actions folder (my one-off miscellaneous tasks).
Today, I might focus on doing work around the office. I can select the @Office context and burn through as many admin tasks while I am at work Tomorrow, I can do admin work that needs my Mac or iOS device. I can look at the @App or @iOS contexts. The next day, I might want to work through my communications tasks. I will focus on working through my @People and @Customers context. When I need to do some research, I can refer to my @AudioBooks or @DevonThink context.
I have my Admin Actions SALS set to be reviewed once a week. This gives me a chance to review the one-off actions and determine its fate (defer, delegate, delete,do). The Admin Actions SALs do change a lot because I add, complete, and delete tasks on a daily basis. The more active the SAL, the shorter my review cycle. More active SALs might get a review interval of 2-3 days to help me monitor the current list. Otherwise, once a week seems to be a nice fit.
Grouping all of my admin tasks (repeating tasks and one-off tasks) into the Admin folder will help me focus on completing the tasks that seems to come at me like a conveyor belt. Chipping away at the admin tasks for at least one hour a day will eventually bring me up-to-date and give me more time to work on my Big Rock projects. I don’t mix admin work with Big Rock work. This post deals with working on Admin work. I’ll be discussing the Big Rocks perspective in the next post.
This is a slightly different take of @joebuhlig’s neutralize workflow. Adapt your own neutralize workflow by following our examples and tweaking to your style. Share with us what you’ve done to clear to neutral and tackle your maintenance tasks!