The case for using to-do lists
Monday, September 10, 2012
Here is an article about using a to-do list. A pretty good article but some things I wouldn’t agree with (it’s kind of corporate) so I’ve added my method below which has been super useful. Since you have many projects going right now, I thought it might be a useful tool for not feeling overwhelmed!
I use a computer calendar (Google Calendar) to keep track of important appointments & deadlines and to manage time (marking off work days, etc). So a good calendar program is a good idea. Many computers come with one: pick one, use it & rely on it for planning ahead. One great thing about computer calendars is that you can plan years & years ahead. Choose one where you can see by week & by month. I use Google Calendar, an online calendar, http://www.google.com/calendar Because it is online, it sends me email alerts & I can access it from any computer. I just keep track of the big picture there.
For keeping track of projects & tasks, whether big multi-step projects (selling the business) or small tasks (packing lists, for example) keeping the pen & paper to-do list has worked best for me. Doing this on a computer can create extra work (not the goal); by keeping a pen & paper to-do list , I can easily change, make notes, get messy, scratch off done items, put big stars next to things, and throw away or revise as needs be. Sometimes, simple & sweet is just best. I can write all my goals down plus any steps in one place and it feels good because I am making a plan and I am already taking the first steps of getting it done by simply writing the tasks/goals down on a piece of paper.
I’ll often use a couple pieces of paper with items jotted down for multiple projects. This article recommends prioritizing tasks using A for very important to F for not very important; I find that just underlining important stuff works fine or keeping separate lists for long-term projects & others for a weekly to-do list. It should simply be a tool to help you keep track of things that need to get done so that you can put them out of your head and on to a piece of paper (lightens the load). As you remember or think of things that need to be accomplished, you can write them down too. You can even organize some of the smaller steps needed to get to a bigger goal. As things get done, you check/cross them off the list which is a very satisfying experience and is a real mental reward! Keeping all your to-do lists on a clip-board is helpful too: you can rotate what is priority to the front, but never lose track of any list/to-do item.
A to-do list can also help to organize your time. For example. if you have some time in the morning but aren’t feeling super high-energy, you can knock off a bunch of little tasks on your list (great for multi-tasking: “get this mailed, make that phone call, check that information, buy that item” from different projects all get done in one morning). Bigger tasks (or simply ones that are more daunting) can be scheduled into the week so that you can set aside time for a bigger task. This way, things get done in a more manageable way that is kinder to what you can handle & when.
One of the best parts of to-do lists is that you can put them aside and schedule down-time. Such as, “I have a big week ahead of me, so I’ll take some time off the day before a big task, so I know I’ll have the extra energy to do it” or “I need some time to think about this particular task, so I’ll tackle those tasks later in the week and give my brain the time it needs to sort out the best idea/make a decision.” These have been really helpful tools to me for getting things done and relieving stress: by simply writing them down on the to-do list I am taking the first step in getting them done. This works better than keeping track of many thoughts/projects in my head where it becomes a stress-bomb. As I knock things off my to-do list, I know that I am getting these things done.
Sometimes the lists can start looking a little messy. As things get knocked off the list, or as projects get revised, simply transfer all the undone things to a new list & throw the messy ones away. Discarded to-do lists are a great sign that one is getting a lot done plus it feels good to update your lists.
It can be a nice way to separate the “boss you” from the “get things done you.” It also really helps with not feeling overburdened by tasks because it breaks them down to bite-sized bits. Once it is written on the to-do list, you’ll feel tremendous relief because you won’t be carrying those buzzing/nagging tasks around in your head. They are there on the to-do list waiting to be accomplished & crossed off.