Task list nonsense

By johannatime On November 11, 2014 Under Getting Organised

Working from a good looking to do list feels awesome, too. You will be more productive when your most important tool is in your favorite style and colours. In fact, I always advise my clients to get their favorite gear for their personal workflow system, because when you love your tools, there is an ovbious chance you keep them nice and clean, like inbox zero and all.

Task list illusions

However, the other day I saw a rather disturbing post on Pinterest: it showed a nicely styled activity board including a slick to do list and it said something like ‘you’ll stay organised with this handsome task board’. And I can see people like the beauty of it and thinking ‘if I had a stylish to do list like that I would stay organised, too, so I want that task board, now.’

Pre-printed organisers are another example. Awesome fonts and colours, fixed tabs in matt plastic. And of course, there are gorgeous looking digital task managers with pre-defined labels like ‘sales’, ‘R&D’ and ‘prospects’, all very pretty.

Don’t let the handsome ones trick you

You will not be organised thanks to the looks of a (new) tool. You will not become any more productive because your to do list is printed on fancy paper. When you are disorganised or overwhelmed, whatever you do, stay where you are and don’t move to a fancy tool to fix the problem, because 9 times out of 10 the new system is a one size fits none disaster.

Here’s some warning signals that your task list, no matter how pretty, is not working:

  • When you find yourself using other tools on top of your gorgeous activity board because it cannot accomodate the complexity of all your work.
  • When it takes some effort to fit all of your to do’s in effectively, so when it gets busy (and you really need it to work), you skip that step.
  • When your to do list is not (anymore) at the centre of all you do and all you plan to do.

The success is not in the looks

Back to the basics now. Why do we have task lists? A to do list, or better, a work flow organisation system, should serve you. Your system must enable you to effordlessly add actions and projects, and it must provide you with relevant to do’s in a blink of an eye and at any given time of the day. It must work quickly, effectively and intuitively. A task system is about the dynamics of your work flow rather than the list itself.

An image of a pretty activity board on Pinterest makes just as little sense as a snapshot of Michael Jackson moonwalking. You need to see how it works in order for it to have added value and make you understand.

A good work flow system

So when you think your task list system needs an update, look for tools that are fully customisable, and don’t get distracted by logos and fonts. In case you want to know, I use IQTell for that reason. But by all means keep things simple if that’s overwhelming and start from scratch with pen and paper. And please tell me how you go in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

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