Updated: May 23
This article introduces the MYN time management system, invented by the famous Time Management expert, Michael Linenberger. It shows how to use MYN to build a perfect to-do list. Try it, to give your productivity a real boost, and reduce your stress.
Now is all we have
We are all time travellers, on the same journey. Like strangers on a train. Behind us is our shared history. If we are old enough, we remember Kennedy and the moon landings. We don't remember Ancient Rome, but the history books tell us all about it.
Ahead of us is the future. Unknown and unknowable. Will Covid get us? Will my team win on Saturday? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Clap your hands once, now, as you are reading this. Oh sorry, I meant to ask you to clap twice. Too late, it’s in the past. You can clap again, but you can’t change the first clap.
The only time you can do anything at all, is right now. It’s the only thing we have.
Master Your Now
A couple of years back I read a fascinating little book called The One Minute To-Do List, by the time management expert Michael Linenberger. I loved it. It told me how to manage time more successfully, to get things done.
I love this book so much that I want you to read it now. You can download it here, for free. Do it now. You won’t have to pay for it or register for anything.
Michael calls his method ‘Master Your Workday Now’, or MYN for short. That makes sense, as now is all we have.
Give the book a read over a cup of coffee, then come back to me here.
Writing stuff down
When I was a successful project manager, I learnt quickly that if you want something to happen, you have to write it down. It’s a chore, but it’s worth the pain.
If you read The One Minute To-Do List, you’ll know it only takes one minute to get started. Just do a brain dump of all the things that are in your head begging to get done.
Later in this article, I’m going to show you how to use a To-Do List app to capture your brain dump. But for now, just do it on paper. It will only take a minute. Your future self will look back at this moment and thank you.
List all the to-do’s in your head. We’ll call them ‘tasks’. As you are following Michael’s MYN method, you will put each task into one of three ‘Urgency Zones’. They specify the relationship your tasks have with Now. Here they are:
It’s as easy as that. When you have finished your one minute brain dump, you should have around five tasks that are ‘Critical Now’. That means you must do them today, before you go to bed.
The ‘Opportunity Now’ tasks are ones that you can do another day, if you run out of time today. But if you can find time to fit them in today, that will start to get you ahead of the game. Allow yourself up to twenty of these ‘Opportunity Now’ tasks. Keep an eye on them during the day.
Everything else goes into ‘Over-the-Horizon’. You will do them when you can. Exactly when that is, is lost in the mists of the unknowable future.
Using a to-do list app
There are many to-do list apps out there. I’m going to show you how to use TaskAngel Online to look after your one-minute to-do list.
Getting started with TaskAngel Online is really quick. Just follow this link and you’re in. This time, you will have to register with your email address and a password, but you won’t have to pay anything until your free trial is over. Registration allows TaskAngel to keep your tasks in a protected, secure database.
After you have registered, TaskAngel will show you an empty task list. It's empty because you haven’t typed anything in yet.
Before typing your tasks in, go to Settings and switch on a setting called ‘Set Up for MYN’. This tells TaskAngel you are following the MYN method, and you want to use urgency zones.
The TaskAngel Settings Page
Go back to the task list in TaskAngel by tapping on the Tasks button at the foot of the Settings page. Now start typing in the tasks from your paper one-minute to-do list. You do each one by using the blue ‘+’ button on the task list. This pops up the Task Editor.
Give your new task a title. One of mine is “Buy Ann a present”. We are having a Christmas shopping trip on 11 December, and I know what she wants, so I set the Due Date to 11 December. If I want the task to be hidden until then, I set the Start Date to 11 December as well. TaskAngel can hide tasks that are scheduled to start in the future, unless I turn on the setting 'Show Future tasks'.
The task is more than 10 days away, so I set its urgency to ‘Over-the-Horizon’.
A new task in TaskAngel Online
The Task Editor lets you give your tasks lots of other properties, like goals, folders, contexts and notes. But you’re just getting started, so you can leave them for now. Tap the Save button to add the new task to your list. Earlier I turned on the setting 'Show Future Tasks', so I can see my new task.
The Task List in TaskAngel Online, showing Urgency Zones
Because TaskAngel is online, you can access it from whatever device you want, using the same link. I like to use my iPhone, so I can put it in my pocket or bag and keep an eye on my to-do list when I am out and about. When I’m in my office, I like to look at TaskAngel on my MacBook, to give me a bigger screen.
“Very nice job! Very simple, direct, and it supports MYN well! I especially love the Urgency Zone titles. I like how modern the interface is.” - Michael Linenberger, author of MYN
Do it now
Now you know how to get back in control of time. It's only going to take one minute to get started. Have a look back at The One Minute To-Do List, and do it. Right now.
Andrew Boswell is the author of TaskAngel To-Do List. He spent many years as a project manager in high-tech programmes in the UK, rolling out Internet technology and new customer service systems.
Andrew also works as IT Director of Iconic Project Management Limited, which delivers outstanding construction projects across the commercial sector.