The Closed List: Getting Things Done, with boundaries

April 19, 2009

Just finished reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, so I’m a little skeptical about new time management approaches. However, this book’s ideas seem to complement the GTD system very well.

The basic idea of Do It Tomorrow is that you have a defined task list to accomplish each day. It’s a “closed list” because you aren’t supposed to add new items to it unless they absolutely must be done that day (and even then, you’re supposed to put them on a separate list so you don’t lose sight of your original goals). Whenever possible, you’re supposed to put off any new work until “tomorrow.” The theory is that most time management problems come from the fact that we spend too much of our day doing unplanned things. Pushing new work off until a future time gives you a “buffer” that allows you to plan when to do it.

I think this approach solves one of the key problems I’ve been having with GTD. GTD is an excellent knowledge capture and task creation system, but I don’t think it fully addresses what (or how much) to do on a particular day. With the closed list, you have a defined list of goals for each day. It stops you from overworking, but it also stops you from slacking off.