Jan 21, 2013

My Best Tip for Getting Things Done: Make a List

In the last few months, I've had ups and downs when it comes to productivity, and I finally realized that I am way more productive when I take the time to make a list. It takes only a few minutes to do it, but it makes a huge difference in how much I get done. I think it's because having a list focuses the mind - and it's automatic prioritizing.

As I've mentioned several times before, I've been reading a time management book called Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time for quite some time now. The book really makes a lot of sense, and I read it a little at a time so I can implement the advice that I find relevant.

One of the suggestions in the book is to make multiple lists, including one that you carry over from day to day - so if something doesn't get done one day, it goes on the next day's list. I've been doing this for a while now, and it makes a huge difference in how much I get done.

The funny thing is, electronic to-do lists just don't do it for me. I think it's because they're out of sight most of the time. A paper to-do list, on the other hand, stays right next to my mouse so I constantly see it whenever I'm sitting down. There's also something very satisfying about vigorously drawing a line through something that's been accomplished!

As noted above, I have several different lists that I use regularly:

  • A long-term to-do list - I do keep my long-term list on my computer, but that's because I don't need to look at it every day. It's a list of things I'd like to get done this year - from a thorough overhaul of my paper archives to organizing the kids' artwork for forever-storage (mostly digitizing them, but also figuring out how I want to organize the physical items I keep) to gradually going paperless. Throughout the year, I am able to cross things off as they get done. This is also a great "idea storage" place where I put things down that I'd like to get done and maybe later decide I don't want to do after all.

  • A short-term to-do list - This list is comprised of things I'd like to get done this week, although not everything gets crossed off every week. Some of the tasks on this list are drawn from my long-term list, and some are things that need to be done but not necessarily immediately, like something I've committed to doing for the PTA. I hand-write this list every week, and keep it on my desk for easy reference.

  • A today list - My today list has a few daily items at the top that never change (e.g., drinking 8 glasses of water), as well as the plan for the day - meetings, errands, chores, etc. Depending on much I have to do on a particular day, I'll add some items from my short-term list. This is the list I keep next to my mouse and look at constantly. I try to create my list the night before so it's ready to go when I wake up, but many times I write it first thing in the morning. I find that's not ideal, though, so I'm working harder on getting my list done at night.

What's your best tip for getting things done?


Beth T. said...

I absolutely agree with this. I've told myself that I accomplish more with a list because writing things down helps me organize or remember, but the truth is this: it makes me very happy to check things off, and that motivates me to do tasks I might otherwise postpone.

Chief Family Officer said...

I'll take my motivation where I can get it too :)