Part 8 — Why There’s Always a Limit to Your Capacity to Manage Tasks Effectively

Part 8 — Why There’s Always a Limit to Your Capacity to Manage Tasks Effectively

And what happens when you try to exceed it

The Problem

Like most people, you probably wish you could make one, final, ultimate set of changes to your task management system that would last forever. What kinds of changes? Maybe a behavior change to adapt (like a new habit, ritual, routine, or practice), or a new app to download, or a device to acquire.

But experience (and research) show that there is no final solution that lasts forever. Why? Part of the reason is that unwanted symptoms, or defects, show up whenever the volume of tasks you are trying to manage nears your personal limits.

Consider a balloon trapped inside a box. The balloon’s size can be increased or decreased at will, as long as it never touches the sides of the box.

However, if you increase the volume of air in the balloon past a certain point, the walls of the two objects start to touch. Eventually, the balloon loses its shape and deforms. If even more air is added, it bursts.

Now imagine that:

  • the box represents the upper limits of your task management system, made up of your behaviors, apps and devices.
  • the balloon pictures all the tasks you are trying to manage at a given time.
  • its changing shape reflects your total task volume in that moment.

When your personal task volume increases to a certain point — before it reaches the capacity of your system — you don’t have a problem. But once it hits a certain limit, unwanted symptoms or defects occur.

This relationship between task volume, your capacity, and unwanted symptoms is a fact of life — the reality of managing tasks. (The analogy to the balloon in the box is only partial.)

In this context, understanding each of these three components in isolation is just the beginning. However, as a connected system of psychological objects, there is a new level of comprehension that’s possible that makes all the difference when you seek to make improvements.

Why is This Important?

If this model is true for all functioning adults, it could explain a few things. For example, even after we make a number of critical improvements to our task management, unwanted symptoms will probably recur.

To most people, this is bad news. In their minds, a problem they had solved has returned. Unfortunately, some use this evidence to invalidate their progress and those who give advice. For example, Getting Things Done by David Allen is disparaged by many who see the return of unwanted symptoms. They see it as a sign of the guru’s failure. Or their own.

But some escape the trap: for a handful of advanced productivity enthusiasts, the re-emergence of old symptoms is nothing more than an indication of proximity. It has no more significance than the sound a car’s sensor makes as it reverses to a wall.

As such, when unwanted symptoms re-appear, they take the occurrence as a sign: it’s time to perform a fresh diagnosis. The fault is no-one’s.

But they also realize that the solutions they used as a beginner, or last year, or last week, can’t be recycled. Hence the need for a new assessment, and perhaps even better diagnostic tools.

What’s the Link to the Rapid Assessment Program?

In the training, you learn how to use a unique diagnostic toolset to understand your current system. Plus, you are given a full list of unwanted symptoms to work with and a way of mapping them to their behavioral causes, which sit inside your current setup.

These are lifelong tools which apply to all levels of task volume. While better diagnostics will undoubtedly appear in time, you’ll have already made “The Switch” from taking the general advice of others, to using personalized insights based on your self-evaluation.

P.S. While I have used the term “tasks” in this article, I mean “time demands”.

Find out more about the MyTimeDesign Rapid Assessment Program in this webinar.

Part 8 — Why There’s Always a Limit to Your Capacity to Manage Tasks Effectively was originally published in 2Time Labs on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.