how to cultivate a task-centric mindset

How to cultivate a “task-centric mindset” [PMP #152]

One of the reasons I think I’m able to be productive is because I’ve cultivated a “task-centric mindset”.

As more and more stuff clogs up our mental inbox, it's easy to get overwhelmed with “too much to do”. This makes it harder to prioritise your time, good ideas can be forgotten about and you always feel like you’re trying to catch up on life.

Having a “task-centric mindset” helps you to stay on top of all this stuff and more importantly, execute on the things that matter.

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What is a “task-centric mindset”?

It might sound obvious but I define a “task-centric mindset” as thinking in terms of tasks. Sounds simple but most people don’t do this.

Here’s what an unproductive person (who’s not task-centric) might look like:

  • They sit down to work and don’t know what to do.
  • They read books and consume educational material but don’t put any of it into action.
  • Ideas and notes are recorded but quickly get forgotten about.
  • Emails sit in their inbox marked as read but are never replied to or actioned upon.

Here’s how having a “task-centric mindset” changes the above:

  • You sit down to work with clear priorities and know exactly what to do.
  • You read books and create systems to implement what you’ve learned.
  • Ideas are turned into project plans.
  • Your inbox is clean and emails have been responded to or actioned upon.

How to think in terms of tasks

1. Do everything in your task-management system

A lot of people use task or project management tools but in a very lazy sort of way. i.e. they brain dump their tasks into the system but often don’t use due dates and they only refer to the system them every now and then. This results in the plan getting out of date and needing to be cleaned up every time you log in.

As you might guess, I do almost everything in Asana and I refer to it all the time. Along with my calendar, it’s the only other app that’s always open on my computer. I have a philosophy that everything I need to do is recorded in here. No task is too small. And I plan when I’m going to work on tasks and projects. I add due dates to my tasks to illustrate when I need to or would like to do something by. This means that at any given time, I can look 2-3 weeks into the future and I have a 90% accurate idea of what I’m going to spend my time on.

Earlier this year I had an SEO audit done on my website. This resulted in me being presented with a PDF document containing recommendations of things I needed to update or change on my website.

A non-task-centric person would read this document but would fail to plan the actions and as a result, may only implement a few of the recommendations.

As I read it through this document, I immediately created tasks for myself in Asana. I copied across notes to each task so I could easily refer back to the recommendations when working on a given task. By converting this document into a plan, I was then able to prioritise what to do first and delegate the tasks to my developer, virtual assistant and myself.

I even track things like personal development in Asana. I’m going through a course right now about how to use ConvertKit better. I’m using Asana to track the lessons I’ve watched and the action items that I’ve identified from each one. Doing this means I’m actually taking action and implementing what I’ve learned as I go through the course.


asana task centric

The key takeaway here is to put more effort into your task management system. Plan your actions and then prioritise them and identify when you’re going to work on each one. Create a plan and keep referring back to it. If the plan changes, that’s fine. Just make sure you keep your system up to date.

2. Always ask, “what’s the next action?”

Make it a habit to always ask yourself this question “What’s the next action?”. Asking this question is a simple trigger to help you cultivate the right mindset. Using your tools more effectively is important. But when you adopt new ways of thinking, this is far more effective (and will help you to use the tools better anyway).

Asking “what’s next” is something I learned to do after I started using Pipedrive. With Pipedrive, whenever you complete an activity, a box appears prompting you to create another activity. You’re always forced to think about what to do next with a deal.

I’ve tried to adopt the same habit with everything that I do. So when I finish a call with a client, I ask myself what’s next and I schedule that task. Even if it’s just a follow-up, this goes into Asana with a due date so I can maintain momentum on projects.

When I reply to an email, I ask what’s next and plan accordingly. If I need to follow up, I can snooze the email or set a reminder. If I need to take action I’ll create a task in Asana.

This also applies to your ideas. And ideas can be tricky because they often need time to develop. So whenever I have an idea, I’ll brainstorm my thoughts into a note but I’ll create a task in Asana to remind myself to go back and think about it. As I talked about recently, I don’t like ending up in “maybe land” so I create a task to remind myself to either move forward with the idea or reject it.

The next action you come up with isn’t even that important. The key takeaway is to get into the mindset of thinking about what’s next. Doing this helps you to execute your tasks and ideas before they are forgotten about.

Thoughts, feedback or questions? Leave me a comment below!