We all love lists.
If you are not a list writer you don’t know what you are missing.
The ticking off, the scratching out, the highlighters, whatever your style of marking completion it feels good, Doesn’t it?
My Niece is a list writer, shopping lists, household lists, work to do lists and personal accomplishment lists.
I cringe when I see the little pieces of paper on her kitchen table and in her hand bag.
Now don’t get me wrong, better out than in, so Shrek says anyhow.
The first step to effective personal productivity is to get it out of your head. It’s now time for me to teach her the second and third steps
Step 1: Make a List
Start by getting it out of your head, either onto paper or onto a note in Evernote or other Note programme. Don’t restrict yourself by formatting or separating into work or personal. Make one list and keep writing until there is nothing left in your brain, other than the fact that you hate rum and raisin ice cream and that they really should have chosen a stronger actor than Keanu Reeves to play Neo in the Matrix.
This step is your Mind Dump or Mind Download. Visualise the flow of thoughts coming from your head onto the paper. Don’t stop until the image stops, until you head feels lighter.
Why do this?
Heads were not made for storing stuff, as you may have noticed once or twice in the past when you forgot your anniversary or a friend’s birthday. You will limit your potential in life if you go around with everything in your head. If your head is free from tasks and responsibilities, you are more likely to be able to focus, to be creative, to be able to trouble shoot, brainstorm and to sleep.
STEP 2: Process the List
This is the step a lot of people leave out. You have to categorise and prioritise the list. Leave the list on one page, uncategorised, unprioritised and it is at risk of causing you stress, distraction and frustration. The traditional to Do list is a bunch of stuff. Monday morning you write out the list. You decided to start working on one item, maybe complete it and move onto another one. Each time you complete a task you look through the list to decide what to do next, you feel a bit stressed about what still needs to be done. Each time you look at the list you are reminded of all the things you are not doing and all the things you won’t have time to do today, tomorrow of this month.
Process the master list by taking each item one at a time and deciding what needs to be done. Make a decision before moving on. Item one on the list; what is this and when does it need to be done? If there is a time limit to when the task should be done it should probably go into your calendar. Take the time to decide how long it will take and how much time needs to be scheduled for the task. If it is a project at least schedule the first part so you can get things moving. If the list item doesn’t need to be scheduled into your calendar right now put it into a task list
STEP 3: Chose a Task List
A task list is a more sophisticated to do list. It’s gotta birra style! With a task list you can categorise your tasks into areas of your work or life. Different projects get their own space. Save all tasks relevant to a certain project inside the project folder or notebook. In this way you eliminate any overwhelm that may be felt when you look at all the things that need to be done on your To Do List. You will no longer worry about Project Anaconda while working on Project Barracuda. There are many task management apps available and a new one comes on the scene almost every day.
Choose something like Evernote, Wunderlist or Remember the Milk. Download it, use it and stick with it. Try out Asana if you want a robust system for work. Or check out this review of the Best Project Management Software for 2018. Whatever system you use will work as long as you commit to it. choose.
Only when you commit to it will you see the true value of having a task management system and it rocks!
So take my advice and evolve with the times, To Do Lists are so yesteryear, get yourself a task list app and use it.
Let me know in the comments how you make your to do list work for you.
Photo Credit To Do by Courtney Dirks