Tag Archives: todo

It’s Friday. You need a to-don’t list

Ok, that’s a cute name, but what do I mean by “to don’t” list? Chances are, you have a long list of todos. Worse, you don’t even have a list: you just have a foggy anxious stew in your head of many things you feel you need to do.

Here’s what to do. Write out everything. You can use paper, you can use post-it notes. You can use workflowy like I do. But get down those todos. If you already have a long list, then great. I mean…”great”. 🙂

Once you have your list, go through the four questions here: Multiply your time by asking 4 questions about the stuff on your to-do list

Take all those items you are going to eliminate and put them in one list. The items you are going to automate in another, the items you plan to delegate in a third, and the items you can put off in a fourth. Then remove them from your list. Tada!  You’ve decluttered your todo list and separated it into a To-do List and a To-don’t List.

If you find this difficult — and decluttering is difficult — ask a friend to come in and help you. They can be much more objective about things that you can. Don’t dither: if you can’t decide, put an item into the Put Off list.

As for automation, don’t just think of the one time you do something, think of the many times a year you have to do something. It adds up. A little bit of time automating might add up to hours of effort in the next year or two.

The point of a todo list is not to accumulate a list: it’s to get things done. Get the unnecessary things off of it so you can focus on the necessary ones.

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash )

The first thing on your todo list this week? Deciding what you are looking forward to

You are putting your todo list together for the day, the week, who knows…but it likely has a quite a few things for you to get through. Now make another list of things you are looking forward to. It could be taking a coffee break. It could be going for a walk and admiring the leaves. Or catching up with a loved one. Perhaps doing something creative, like knitting or painting or making a nice meal. Whatever these things are, make sure you list them and strive for them. Because life is harder if you don’t have things to look forward to.

I thought of this often recently. I would look at my todo list and feel unproductive. Then I started approaching it from the viewpoint of what I will look forward to once I start and finish the tasks. I’d think: what positive things can I look forward to as a result of doing this? The more I thought this way, the more I found it easier to get things done.

Try it: you might find you get more done too, the more you look forward to things.

For more on this topic, see this: Something to look forward to – Austin Kleon

P.S. When the thing you are looking forward to happens, make sure you really take the time to appreciate it. For example, there was a messy part of my house I recently cleaned. I was really looking forward to it looking good again. Now it does, I take the time every day to appreciate it. I now find anticipating fixing up more of the house so I can enjoy that same feeling of satisfaction. You will too!

(Photo by Alexis Fauvet on Unsplash)

How to procrastinate well

What, you say? That makes no sense. Procrastination is a thing to be avoided, not perfected.

But let’s face it: some of you — us! — will always be procrastinators. If it is something that will be always with us, why not make the best of it?

That’s what this piece argues. By structuring your procrastination, you can still get important things done…it just not the thing you really ought to be doing.

So take a lesson from that piece on structured procrastination and go do the second most important thing on your list. Or third. Whatever.

I’d like to add that if you do that, you might get some wind in your sails and find that after you’ve effectively procrastinated, you can go back and work on the thing that you really ought to be doing.

Procrastination: make it work for you.

P.S. Yes, I wrote this as a way to avoid some things I should be doing.

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Are calendars more effective than To Do Lists? Is there a third option? (Yes of course :))


This piece argues that they are: Why Calendars are More Effective Than To Do Lists.

I think there are definite benefits to using calendars over to do lists. For example, when you need to work with other people. Scheduling time makes sure people commit to working on something and getting it done. Calendars are also great for when you need to give yourself a deadline.

I think todo lists are better than calendars when you aren’t sure how long it will take to do a task. Calendars aren’t great if you  spend a significant amount of time planning to do things versus actually doing them. (Although you can procrastinate the same way using todo lists.)

One way of merging calendars with todo lists is to work in sprints of 1 to 2 to 4 weeks, like agile developers do. At the start of a sprint, go over your todo list and prioritize and size your tasks. Then fill up the sprint period with the tasks you can get done in that time. Then you can schedule them on your calendar to remind yourself to get them done.  If you have things blocking you that day, plan to resolve them by eliminating the blocker.

 

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How to be more productive with a better todo list?


Easy. Don’t make these mistakes: These Seven To-Do List Mistakes Could Be Derailing Your Productivity

What should you do?

1. Write your lists the day before
2. Don’t have too many items
3. Have items you can truly do that day
4. Prioritize items
5. Be specific
6. Create a fresh list each day
7. Link it to your calendar

If you need guidance, see the article.

It’s a skill writing a good todo list. Having better ones means you have a better or at least a more productive day.

Do you feel like you do alot with little to show for it? I did too. Here’s how I turned that around.

Last year, I was discouraged: I was doing a lot with little to show for it. I would frequently be up until midnight doing chores and trying to stay on top of things and I was exhausted. Despite all that effort, I could not tell you what I had accomplished and I wasn’t getting any feedback telling me either. I decided I had to change that, and to change that, I did two major things: I started using a spreadsheet and I started using Workflowy. Let me explain how these two tools made a difference for me.

First, I started using a spreadsheet to track everything I did. Before I would write my todolists on a piece of paper, do it, then throw the list away. With the spreadsheet,  I put all my todos in there. Initially it had two columns: a todo column and a status column. Each todo had an associated status: Pending (i.e., I hadn’t started the task), WIP (work in progress, meaning I had started the task but hadn’t completed it) or Complete. As I did each todo, I changed the status from Pending to WIP (Work in progress) to Complete. I would try to only tackle tasks that were in the spreadsheet. If I did something that wasn’t in there, I started adding it there. (That last thing of capturing all todos in the spreadsheet was important.)

Very soon, I could see from the spreadsheet that I was doing a lot. In fact, the todolist expanded greatly. So I added a new column: priority. Each todo has a priority: 1-4. Once or twice a week, I reviewed my todos to see if they had the right priority. Then I ignored anything that wasn’t a 1 until the next review period. Prioritization helped me to focus.

Despite that, I still had many many todos, and still too many todos with a number 1 priority. I added additional columns over the year and this helped me manage what I had to get done. Even when my todo list had over 500 items on it, I could quickly filter out all but the 3 or 4 items I needed to focus on for a day. I added a column to help me separate Work todos from Home (not work related) todos. Then I subcategorized the Todos: there are todos related to my kids, todos concerning Money, my Home, even Me!

Of all the colums in the todo list, I found this last column of subcategories to be the most important in terms of getting a sense of accomplishment. Here’s why. At the end of each month, I took the completed todos and sorted them by subcategory. I could see from this where I was (and wasn’t) spending my time. For example, I might see that I was spending a lot of my time dealing with House issues and not enough of my time with the Kids. Having this in front of me allowed me to better focus my time in the near future. (Note: you don’t have to wait until the end of the month to do this, and when I find I am really busy, I will do weekly or biweekly reviews to see how the month is shaping up).

At the end of the month, I create a new worksheet for the new month by making a copy of the existing todo list. That way, I can focus just on the todos for that month.

After a few months of this, it was easy to do. You might think it is a lot of effort, but with the spreadsheet I have, I found it easy to add to and sort the todos. Most days I spend less than a few minutes reviewing it.

Occasionally I do things that aren’t on the list. It doesn’t matter much: most todos end up in there. The main thing is I get to see that I am getting things done and I can see where my effort is going.

That’s the spreadsheet. At first, it was all I wanted. I could see what I was getting done each month, and that felt great. I was getting a sense of accomplishment every month. But it wasn’t enough. The problem with just using the spreadsheet was that it is very granular. I could see I was doing a lot of tasks, but was that good or bad? Also, sometimes a bunch of smaller tasks add up to a bigger task that should be highlighted, but the spreadsheet couldn’t do that for me. I needed a different approach. I needed a different tool.  After thinking about this, I started using Workflowy (workflowy.com).

At the start of the month, I create a list of major activities I want to accomplish that month. (Workflowy is really  great if you like lists: that’s why I picked it.) Then I make sure my todos for that month are in line with those major activities. At the end of the month, I roll up the tasks that I did and put them in workflowy according to the major activities. Additionally, I might look and see I accomplished a number of things in the month that I didn’t expect to at the start of the month. I will add them to Workflowy, too, creating a new major activity to describe them.

What I liked about this is that month after month I could now see I was accomplishing a lot. I wasn’t just doing just a lot of little things: I was getting bigger things done. I could also see what I wasn’t accomplishing (e.g. running) and then correct that (or at least accept it in light of the other things I was accomplishing).

The other thing I realized is that if you have a lot on your plate, then it is difficult to make a lot of achievements in one month, but over many months, you start to see you have accomplished a lot. You miss that as your review your day to day activities because you are juggling a lot. Even looking back over a month, you think: wow, I barely made a dent in things. But as you look back over 3 or 6 months, you can say: wow, I made big improvements in 3 or 6 or even a dozen areas.

There are lots of improvements that can be made on this system, depending on who you are.  You may have the advantage of being able to focus in one or two areas. If so, you could use a simpler approach. If you have many major responsibilities and you want to make improvements in your own life, this approach may work for you. It works for me.

A template of my spreadsheet is here. It’s an XLS file.

As for the list I have each month in workflowy, I start with a template like this:

In Month X I plan to achieve the following

  • Concerning family and friends
  • With regards to personal finances
  • On the home front
  • With regards to staying organized
  • For special project X (whatever X is at the time)
  • Personally, I plan to do more regarding….
    • Writing/reading
    • Fitness
    • Develop personal skills
      • Develop my technical skills
      • Develop other skills
    • Explore new things

If you have read to this point: thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to do this. If you try this approach and it gives you some benefit, please let me know. Good luck! Accomplish great things!

The best todo list ever? Certainly the simplest. Likely the one you need.

By now you’ve had a chance to go over the things you need to do this week. Quite possibly it is looking overwhelming. Even though you are working hard, you don’t feel like you are accomplishing things. If so, try stepping back, take a minute, and read this: If you do this and only this, today will be a good day.

It really is a good way to approach your day. (And yes, it’s fine if you do more than one thing.)