Have you been wandering around listlessly?

Every morning when I get into work, I sit down and write out a list of tasks I need to accomplish for the day on a legal pad I keep by my desk. It usually ranges from five to ten tasks, and gives me a good sense of how to structure my day. This list lets me order the tasks to be more efficient, and allows me to construct the day such that one task flows naturally into the next.

I can also add things as needed throughout the day if something new comes in, or make a note about something that will have to be done at a future date. It also helps me to remember everything that needs to get done, because a quick scan at the end of the day lets me quickly see if there is anything I haven’t gotten to. If I were keeping this list in my head, its very easy to let a task slip through.

I also have other lists close at hand, including the various major projects on which I am working, consultants that need to be paid, and issues that need to be discussed, either with bosses or co-workers. Each of these gives me a sense of control over what needs to get done, and gives me a visual representation of which tasks still need to be accomplished. Plus, it’s fun to cross something off the list when it is finished.

Handwritten lists on a pad aren’t for everyone, and there are many other ways to keep a good to do list around. Some people use a small notebook like a Moleskine, which can easily be carried around, and I actually use one of these for my own personal lists. Others use built in software with their PDAs or Blackberries, while others may use an online service such as Remember the milk, Backpack, or even a modified GTD system using Gmail or some other client.

Regardless of how you choose to implement your lists, they provide an important service, and can provide a useful boost to productivity at work and at home.

2 Responses to “Have you been wandering around listlessly?”

  1. I’m only trying to help, but I think you meant ‘such’ instead of ‘suck’ in the first paragraph.

    I’ve listed to the GTD audiobook twice in the past two years or so, and I think it’s really changed the way I think about things to add a ‘context’ label to my tasks too. That way all of the ‘things to do when I’m in the car’, and the ‘things to do when I’m near a phone’, and the ‘things I need to do online’ tasks stay separate.

  2. Andrew Lange says:

    Thanks for catching the typo there for me. I haven’t listened to GTD, but I’ve certainly picked my way through parts of the book, and it definitely makes it so much easier to concentrate on the tasks at hand when I have a defined structure for what needs to get done and when to do it.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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