Simply satisfied part 2: HOW to do lists work

By johannatime On October 22, 2014 Under Productivity vs Procrastination

What’s your to do list like? Is it making you more productive? Or does it rather make you procrastinate? Do you have a functional to do list at all? Or do you have a list, but for most tasks you actually short cut the list? Are there any very sticky tasks on it that just don’t get done? And by the time the piece of paper your list is written on is falling apart, you are copying those tough tasks to your next list? Then this post may be of some help.

A functional to do list

You know when you have a functional to do list when:

  • You use your to do list as your first and only point of reference for doing your work;
  • Your list is very dynamic. You cross or tick off at least 10 tasks and you add about the same amount daily;
  • Your to do list attracts you, you feel good looking at it, using it and working with it.

Top 5 attributes to make your to do list work

A to do list is not like a junk drawer for things that need undefined action, repair or thought. It is a serving tray and it must serve tasty chunks of work. So to make your to do list a useful tool,

  1. You must be able to imagine yourself DOING AND FINISHING the task as it is written on your list. It must sound like a simple command to yourself. The more specific, the better.
  2. Every task on your list can be done by YOU. If you need to wait for someone else to do something before you can do the task, place that item on a ‘waiting for’ list.
  3. Every task on your list can be done NOW. There is nothing that needs to be done first before you can do the task. If that item requires multiple steps before it’s done, place it on a ‘projects list’ and specify only the first action(s) on your to do list.
  4. All items must have RELEVANCE AND IMPORTANCE, and to some degree urgence. Great ideas, suggestions for activities you could do, and dreams to cherish for the future as well as everything you are not going to do in the next fortnight or so, should be moved to a ‘someday list‘.
  5. Any reminder of a task that now sits in your calendar, but that not actually needs to be done on that day and in that time slot, should move to either your to do list, or to one of the other lists I mentioned above (waiting for, someday or projects).

A simplistic approach makes life more complicated

So no you don’t have one long to do list and make it work. Instead, you have a to do list, AND:

  • A projects list
  • A waiting for list
  • A someday list
  • And a calendar

In order not to forget about the things that are going on around your to do list in the background, you’ll have to review those other lists on a weekly basis.

And yes, life is more complicated than just doing to do’s, that’s why you need a system that accomodates the complex dynamics of your activities, your commitments and your priorities.

Fans have already noticed I am talking about Getting Things Done® again, because I am a fan, too. Have these tips been helpful? How do you make your to do list work? Please share your suggestions in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

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