One of the classic time management tools is a list of things that need your attention; a “To Do” list. In its simplest form, it is a list. However, when keeping such a general list, I often find myself overwhelmed by the number of items and the fact that the more I used the list the longer it would grow. I found that if I separated those items that needed my attention now from those that I wanted to keep on my list for reference, my “To Do” list was still useful, and I didn’t find myself overwhelmed. I break my list into three sections: To Do, Should Do, and Could Do.
These are the most important and urgent items on the list; the things that have pressing deadlines and need urgent attention. I keep this section short by limiting it to one item per project or role I have.
These are the things that are a little less urgent, but things that really should be taken care of soon. Next time I address my list, these items are prime candidates to be moved up to the “To Do” section.
These are the items that are neither extremely important nor pressing, but that I would like to accomplish. This section of the list is mostly for reference, so I can worry about remembering other things. This section typically ends up being the longest.
My Current List
Although I list items below in a general sense, my actual list has very specific items. Especially on the ‘To Do’ list, I try to keep items to what I could accomplish in a single sitting; if it would take more time than that, it ends up on a list as multiple entries. For my list to be most helpful, I need to keep in current, meaning updated at least weekly, and handy, meaning it’s often a piece of paper I carry with me everywhere. Below is a selection of items from the list I put together about a week ago; I’ll need to sit down in the next day or so to rewrite it.
- An assignment due next week
- Appointments I need to set for the coming week
- Tickets for a conference I want to attend in a month that sells out quickly
- This blog post
- Car wash and oil change
- Clean up my desk
- Accommodations for the above conference
- Update my journal
- Various blog post ideas
- Review material for an upcoming course
- Write several friends I haven’t talked to in months
- Post some pictures from my latest holiday to Facebook
- Update various computer programs
- Various ‘under-the-hood’ improvements to my website: add a robots.txt file, add meta tag descriptions, etc
A Final Note
Efforts like keeping a “To Do” list should serve to simplify your life; if they are not, you need to either revise the method or ditch it. With that in mind, my “To Do” list has taken many forms and this is simply the latest evolution. I imagine my list will be further refined, and there will be times when I ditch it completely, but I hope someone finds this useful. Bonne chance!