Making Tasks Actionable

Writing task in the same way you would write for someone else

Sarang Kulkarni
Sarang Kulkarni   Follow

Have you written a task yesterday and unable to recall what it really means? and even after understanding the task, you spend few moments in thinking what you really should be doing to get this task done? then, read on..

When you want to communicate with someone and want them to do exactly what you want them to do, you need to be very precise with articulation of the purpose and what exact action they need to do. This is true even if the person you are communicating is "Future You"

"Clarity precedes success". -Robin Sharma.

So when you are writing tasks or todo list for yourself, you need really make sure

  1. The language used is absolutely clear
  2. The action written is very specific (physical) action.

# Using the right language:

Writing good tasks is an essential skill to master if you want to gain control over your to-do list. A well written task has a much higher chance of getting completed than a poorly written one. On the other hand, a badly written task puts you off doing it immediately because it triggers feelings of uncertainty and/or overwhelm. And it is only natural to want to avoid things that make us feel bad.

Some Do's and Dont's

# Dos:

  • Each task should start with a verb
  • The task should be finite with a clear end defined
  • Each task should be specific and clear so you still know exactly what to do even if you look at the task a few weeks later
  • The task should be affirmative instead of multiple negatives

# Donts:

  • Reduce vagueness and make it extremely specific
  • Reduce length of tasks. Move them to description fields
  • Avoid using "be", ”is”, “am”, “are”, “were”, “was” as verbs

"The Action Step Needs to Be the Absolute Next Physical Thing to Do" - David Allen

Even after practice, a lot of times, we tend to create a single task which actually contain multiple subtasks. Below contains GTD verbs that can help you distinguish multi-step tasks vs single task.

  • Book
  • Brainstorm
  • Buy
  • Call
  • Copy
  • Discuss
  • Draft
  • Edit
  • Email
  • Fill out
  • Find
  • Gather
  • Load
  • Outline
  • Print
  • Purge
  • Read
  • Record
  • Register
  • Research
  • Review
  • Schedule
  • Update (single-step)
  • Verify
  • Wait For
  • Write

Multi-step tasks describe desired outcomes more than next specific actions and begin with verbs like these:

  • Analyze
  • Complete
  • Decide
  • Deploy
  • Design
  • Ensure
  • Finalize
  • Finish
  • Handle
  • Implement
  • Install
  • Launch
  • Look Into
  • Maximize
  • Organize
  • Research
  • Resolve
  • Roll Out
  • Set Up
  • Update (multi-step)

Examples of bad tasks:

Build Website
Write blog
Read Book
Email Neha

Examples of good tasks:

Brainstorm on the design of the webpage for 30m
Research on "How to write clear tasks" and make notes
Read Chapter 1 of Getting things Done
Email Neha about the agenda of a client meeting happening on Jan 5

# Conclusion:

Its extremely important to capture the task in such a way that whenever you revisit that task in future, you know exactly what you need to do without even thinking about it

# References: