Friday, September 25, 2009

Getting Things Done: The To Do List

Welcome to part 2 of the productivity trifecta. Before beginning this blog I researched and tested many techniques on being productive. Some worked, some did not. For the "big projects" that required daily attention and progress I used the Seinfeld chaining method, but that process does not help with the little one-time errands that can be just as important to success. Those of you who have forgot to pay a bill, no matter how small, can attest to the importance of completing small tasks

Errands/chores/tasks. All of us have them. And some people have ways to track them outside of calling up of a list in their heads. Sadly, the list of tasks to do almost always grows larger than one person can easily recall (especially when under a lot of stress), and this list only grows larger once you add other people in your lives (significant others, children, even pets). While my method of tracking tasks isn't exactly new or ingenious, it works wonders for me and fits nicely with the chain calendar method described earlier:

That is it, a simple dry erase board which hangs next to my chain calendar. Sure, you can download "to do list" programs to your computer and iPhone and do the same thing. The only problem is you actually have to use them. And in my case inputting tasks (and descriptions) into a program takes longer than actually doing a task, and the action itself becomes yet another chore to do (and eventually procrastinate). Let's face it, if you are having trouble tracking all of your tasks in the first place, you will likely procrastinate/avoid the task of tracking tasks if it takes too much work. (Okay, time to open Mr. Thesaurus and find a new word for "task" before I drive my self insane)

The dry erase methods for tracking your tas... er, your scutwork is great because A. it is quick and easy (4 seconds to write a devoir, 2 seconds to check it off once complete, 2 seconds to erase it at the end of a week), and B. you can merge the updates with the chain calendar and complete both at the end of the day in one fell swoop.

For those detailed-oriented people here is a step by step process. For those of you who think you can figure it out, just skip to the bottom for some extra tips:

  1. When you think of a job/errand/chore write it on the board
  2. When you have a small amount of free time (commercials, lunch break, loading screen etc.) look at the board and see what you can complete. If you have more free time or planning to leave the office/house, see if there are any jobs you can do during your trip.
  3. When you complete the project, put a check next to it. Or wait until you are updating your daily chain calendar at the end of the day and check them off using the same dry erase markers
  4. At the end of the week, document the board (optional, take a picture) and erase the *sigh* tasks that have checks
  5. Repeat!

Tips for increased efficiency:
  1. Add "To Do list" to your Seinfeld chain calendar so each day you try to complete one or more of your listed items and at the end of the month you can visually track your progress
  2. Write projects that can be completed together next to each other and draw a box around them. Off-site errands should be grouped together, so the next time you leave the house you can see if there is an errand that maybe you can do on the way...
  3. Put a $ symbol next to items that require you to spend money. Remember to look at the list when you create your budgets. The next time you have a little extra cash, instead of spending it on needless items use it to remove an item from your list. Sure beats paying late fees on missed bills
  4. You may try listing the number of tasks you complete each week on your calendar. The downside to this is you might give a higher priority to the number of tasks completed than to the importance of the activity. You may find yourself procrastinating the harder/bigger jobs and instead do 2-4 smaller, less important jobs in order to have a larger number at the end of the week
  5. Put a colored mark next to items that have been on the board too long. If you take a picture every week, compare the list to previous weeks to see what has been on the board for 2+ weeks and mark them to give them higher priority
  6. Don't use a board that is too big. If your board is getting full, use it as motivation to complete more tasks so you can erase them and add more!
  7. List some fun items to treat yourself. If the board is all work and no play you may find yourself trying to avoid it. Is there an older movie you always wanted to see? Write it down! "Go to ice cream shoppe" is a delightful task as well. Creative crafts/hobbies are good exercises that need to be completed. Just don't overdo it or only complete the fun tasks each week...

And remember to always review and adapt! Some techniques may not work for you so at the end of the week/month ask yourself what worked and what didn't and try adding an extra action that works for you!

Hopefully you found this helpful! Don't forget to check out the "productivity" label for more posts like this!

No comments:

Post a Comment