Work sessions: Discovering and logging tasks
Before I start my workday, I like to jot down my top tasks and assign them a general duration (I use Centered to manage this). These tasks are often sourced from Notion, GitHub, or Todoist, but sometimes they also just fall out of my head based on the “cache” from prior work.
Once I lay out my priorities, I start a session (Pomodoro-style) and get into the first task.
The more atomic a task is, the more likely it will be self-contained. A small, simple task (e.g. pay the rent) can be started and finished without distraction.
But in many cases, even for seemingly atomic tasks, there are tangents and discoveries that shift your to-do list into non-linear space.
Something as innocuous as “check email inbox” can spawn dozens of follow-up tasks. We could certainly break this into more atomic tasks, but here's why I like doing this “in” the work instead of “above” the work:
- Getting into a task gets you moving
- Movement gives you momentum
- For “deep work”, tasks are often only discovered by going on this journey
To define all tasks in advance would mean traversing the tree, identifying and documenting all the work, and then coming back “up” to lay out your task list.
Using the “check email inbox” example, let's say you end up with three email follow-ups. How do you know this? Ah yes, by checking your inbox! So the first “task” is to enter a work area and look around to see what needs doing.
Things I've been thinking about a lot lately:
- How can we record this journey? Should we even care?
- How can we minimize friction to logging findings along the way? The less disruptive to progress, the better!
Centered has served me moderately well (I can log tasks via keyboard shortcut while working on another task) but it's not great for “meatier” logs (e.g. jotting down a bug report uncovered while working on something unrelated). For that, I've found Reflect to be quick enough for now.
Would love to see more purpose-built tools around this (e.g. Flowpilot, but I also understand it's a pretty narrow audience. But hopefully a growing one!