The Important (Not Urgent) Projects

Apr 11, 2016
Joe Buhlig
~2 mins

We all have those projects that we know we should be working on, but without a deadline or someone relying on you it’s hard to keep it going. Things come up and the easy tasks to put off are the ones without urgency pushing them on.

I have a tendency to pick up a shiny new project and set aside the projects that move me toward my longer term goals. It’s easy to do because those long distance projects have no (noticeable) ramifications when they’re delayed. I can always make up the difference later or move the potential launch date back a bit without anyone noticing.

But that undermines my own mission. If I want to help others get better at their systems and develop a more meaningful life, I need to stay the course and keep working on the projects without a deadline and that have a bigger long-term impact.

I recently spent some time reflecting on these projects, trying to find time for them each week. I wanted to put my hands to work instead of just thinking or talking, because “It’s the thought that counts” isn’t much of a business model. I thought about dedicating one or two days a week to them, but that would lead to slower progress in the end. What I really need to do is check something off for these projects every single day. They need to move forward every day no matter how small the progress is. Those incremental gains can make a big impact over time.

If I’m going to step up and work on these every day, it makes sense to create a checklist of the projects and tasks I need to complete each day. It also feeds my love of lists.

This shows up on my OmniFocus Dashboard every day and I go through it top to bottom along with everything else I do in the day. This means I set aside more of the “procrastiworking” tasks I tend to work on instead of my key projects, which is a good thing. There are some short-term sacrifices I make to do this but I don’t think anyone would say it’s not worth it.

To get a little more technical on the how, here are the settings I use for the project itself in OmniFocus:

The idea is to flag the project to add it to my Dashboard (Due and Flagged), have it repeat every day, and mark the project complete after all tasks are completed.

Now I have a daily reminder and checklist that ensures I make progress on these important projects. I don’t care how small it is, but I will move them forward. It’s that small contribution each day that really adds up.