Asana is a great tool, to support you and your processes, but it is not itself a process…
So I generally use Getting Things Done (GTD) to organize myself. Some of the key insights from GTD:
- Break larger nebulous tasks into concrete things that you can actually do.
- Separate things that NEED to be done on a specific date/time from those that you need to do, but can do any time. Keep your calendar sacred.
- Separate tasks by context. These things I can do when I’m at the computer, these things I can do when I’m at home, these are errands to run.
One of the biggest things I’ve found is to separate deciding what I’m going to do from the doing. I have a bunch of tasks that I’m trying to get done day-to-day, many are recurring on some schedule, some daily, some weekly, some odd or longer. But some are just “as soon as I can”. Before I start on my tasks, I review them, mentally evaluate and estimate the time, and then sort them (based on some criteria: proximity, convenience, importance, etc). If I don’t think i can get them all done, I renegotiate with myself when I can. Sometimes that means moving to another day, sometimes that means skipping it this time. But it’s deliberate.
Once I’ve done the sorting and re-negotiating, then I just plow through them, in order. I don’t think about “Ugh, I really don’t want to do this…”, I just trust the system and the negotiations I’ve already done.
If you have a lot of tasks, you’ll probably want to separate them into a “today” section and one or more other sections. I typically have a “dates” section, for tasks that I intend to do on a specific date, a section for “this week”, and a “someday/maybe”, among some others.
Sometimes the best laid plans still don’t work out and at (for example) 8pm I’ve still got too much to do, I’ll renegotiate with myself and decide what I will or wont get done today afterall. Building up my ability to commit to myself is a skill I’ve really needed to work on, which is like any other skill, the more you use it, the better you get at it.
But it’s important to start light. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to cook 3 meals a day, work out every day for an hour, sleep 8 hours a night, do 10 things off your todo list… it’s a recipe for failure. We often need success spirals, where we are successful at building a new habit, which gives us confidence to add another new habit/behavior.
So with all this, keep in mind, you aren’t currently getting to all of your tasks, regardless of how “important” you may think they all are. So picking some and making progress on them is a significant step up from where you are today. So it’s entirely okay to not be perfect in your decisions. Focus on improvement, rather than perfection. If you are actually regularly getting some tasks done and whittling away at the mountain, THEN you can try to incorporate a better process for prioritizing. Be kind to yourself.
I love GTD (by David Allen), but there are some things that doesn’t solve, so while I recommend reading the book, that probably won’t be a cure. Another place I’d recommend is lesswrong.org. The community there covers a lot of different topics, but a recurring theme is how to motivate yourself (with a focus on science, habits, and mind hacks).
Good luck, it’s a complicated topic but super important.