Projects First, Task Second

I used to focus on individual tasks over the projects — if any — that they were assigned to in my task management system. What happened was I got things done, but things were spread out amongst multiple projects so it took me longer to complete any one project. When you start using a task manager — or even a simple to-do list app — this is generally how you’ll work as well.
But you should really look at projects first…and tasks second.

When you think about it, you should build things from the overarching to the smaller details. Things like your vision and mission statements should inform what you do — they are perhaps the largest elements that inform how you live and work. The same goes for projects. They may not be the largest of elements, but they certainly are larger than tasks.

I suggest you try to give everything a project that it can be attached to so that you can look at projects first and tasks second.1 Then work from the project down, making sure that you make significant progress towards completion of the project rather than focusing on the tasks within the project. Doing that will strengthen the purpose of why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you won’t get caught up in doing just for the sake of doing.

If you need a trigger to keep this in mind: Remember that a project can project you further than a task simply on its own can.

1 Contexts can also serve to help propel you as well, but projects still come first because of what contexts generally represent: location, energy level, and perhaps even time. My pal Michael Schechter has an excellent piece that really puts contexts into perspective.