I keep my ‘to-do’ lists on a well bound soft cover A-5 size notebook. I use this because I keep the notebook with me all through the day. I use it for my lists and also for taking notes. I tried keeping all of these separately but found that I had to carry so many of them that the very thought seemed discomforting. Keeping one note book helps!
I find people using their phones (smart ones) to keep their lists. I think it is a smart thing to do as it is rare to find one moving around without the phone. So if you are comfortable with the phone, its software and its interface, it is a great tool to use. There are also number of free and paid apps to help you manage lists. The sheer number of apps tells me how many people must still be attempting to crack the code to use this simple but powerful tool. Try them and find one which is most suitable for the kind of lists you maintain. But if you are like some of us who still feel uncomfortable keeping lists and managing lists on the phone, then go back to the earlier option – a right sized notebook and a pen.
Laptops are powerful devices but may not be the best for managing ‘to-do’ lists. I have found people keeping it on their laptops, but somehow find that most people are not all the time with their laptops in power on mode. So when they are travelling or waiting (which are both in tremendous increase) you may find it difficult to add and/or tick-ff items on the ‘to-do’ list. The trouble with trying to remember till you reach your list on the computer is not worth the effort as that’s exactly what we are trying to avoid by using them! So my advice is to find either one of the above options, whichever is more suitable for you and practice it.
Trial and error works till you find the right tool for yourself. But beyond that you must make it a routine to derive maximum benefit. I haven’t come across too many productivity tools that are as simple, so easy and so powerful in enhancing one’s effectiveness and efficiency.
So try it if you haven’t used it or restart it if you stopped using one!
Once you start ticking-off items from your list, its too difficult to stop using one!
Good Luck in getting productive.
I am one who uses the ‘to-do’ list extensively. I have learnt it from so many successful people who have used it in the past. Based on the years of using it and getting things done, here are some tips for everyone to consider:
- Ensure that your list contains all types of activities – important, urgent, projects, communications, calls, meetings, etc
- They are ideally better to be maintained date-wise. So it must tell you what needs to be done on a particular day.
- Let activities on your list be specific. This is to ensure that you can ‘tick-off’ once done (for this you must know when it is done).
- The list must be accessible at all times. This is to ensure that you can get things done whenever you get some time. It also helps schedule time to complete tasks.
- Its always preferable to make the list every night for the next day.
- Don’t drop activities once they get on the list. Take them forward to their logical ends.
This is not an exhaustive list, but may be a good one to start. The benefit behind lists is that they kind of give you a feeling of being on top of things. They give you a positive encouragement every time you ‘tick-off’ an item on the list. They also ensure that you know what is actually getting done.
If you maintain a list initially for a few days, you will realize some patterns:
- you have more time than you estimated to get things done
- you seem to be always passing some important activities for urgent ones
- almost all activities you do are urgent ones (they were important some time in the past but were not done then)
- THE BIGGEST OF ALL: You seem to be keeping the most important activity of yours (the one closest to heart) perennially on the list.
Try making lists and you will within days realize the power of this simple tool for yourself. If you have stories to share if your experiences with ‘to-do’ lists (positive and negative) please share – it will help everyone!
They are two totally different things. Knowing the difference can make you utilize the power of each of them in the most useful situations.
Checklists: The power of checklists is immeasurable in repeated activities. Human beings naturally tend towards boredom when involved in repeated tasks. This can at times become too expensive. In these places checklists come to our rescue. Examples of places where a checklist is helpful are: pilots checking the plane before take-off; a surgeon checking the instruments before surgery; trek leader ensuring all instruments and gadgets are in place before the trek; etc. But there are also places where checklists can be very useful but are not often used, namely: checking if everything is planned before start of an event; checking if everything is in place before a business / personal travel; checking if everything is ready for a workshop; etc.,. The basic benefit of using a checklist is that there is less chances of missing something. While lack of a checklist can be dangerous (as in the case of surgeons and pilots) in some cases, in most cases it also helps in enhancing efficiency. Having a checklist most of all can reduce unnecessary stress on the human mind, which can then be put to much better use.
To-Do Lists: These are widely spoken about, but rarely used to its full potential. A simple to-do list is a list of items that you want to get done. When these are listed according to dates they help us track our commitments and when they are kept according to priority, they ensure we are working on our important things than just urgent tasks. Though one needs to understand the ‘how’ of using ‘to-do’ lists better, the bigger problem is actually with a softer issues – namely discipline. I haven’t come across too many people who are consistent users of this simple tool. The disciplined and consistent use of this tool ensures you never miss out on commitments. The mind forgets especially when it is flooded with numerous requests and proactive actions. The easiest way to ensure things get done is to put it down on a ‘to-do’ list and tick-it-off when done.
The beauty behind the above two types of lists are that they ensure that we are free to do what we are designed to do – namely ‘think’. Considering that most of us are also engaged with numerous people during the course of our work, the number of actions and communications are just rising every day. How to keep a tab on all of these? Lists! If they are repeated activities the best option is to create a ‘checklist of activities or items’ and ensure it is used every time a chance arises. If it is an action (call, email, meeting, write, etc) then put it into your ‘to-do’ list and have the discipline to look at it often to ensure it gets done.
Lists are powerful ways to get things done efficiently and effectively! The above two lists are widely used by productive and effective people across the world.
Think about it if you are not using one or are not consistent at using one!
I am a keen user of the to-do list. And for all the gadgets I love to use, I use the A5 size notebook and a pen for my to-do. I religiously write down all things I want to get done. There are all sorts of things on my to-do list from writing a thank you mail to planning for my next book. Usually like most others my focus is always on reducing the list as it grows. So I normally pick all the items that can be quickly ticked off and do them.
This weekend I was in for some surprise. I happened to work on an essay which I wanted to send to a publication. On that day I started at 4 AM and except for an hour of break to sleep in the afternoon (and the mandatory breaks in between) I worked on it till about 10 PM at the essay. I was exhausted and after mailing the work for review, I promptly went to sleep. I was absolutely fulfilled with my work.
The next morning I got up and I was back to my previous day’s list to check off items that I had completed. I was in for some serious surprise. I could only tick-off one item. And as usual a few more items got added. Oh my God! I thought to myself, how have I spent my previous day?Then the next couple of days I was back to completing lists! Enjoyed them too!
Today I sat to spend some time alone with myself doing nothing. I truly enjoy this the most!! It was during this period that this thought of “ticking-off” things came to my mind. There are days when I tick-off many items on the list but feel a sense of incompleteness and there are days when I tick just one item and feel extremely complete.
Have you had days like these? I thought about it and have promised myself to spend more and more days with lesser and lesser items on my to-do list. I will dedicate lesser days to spend on ticking off lots of items. I hope I can bring this discipline into my life. Because I realized that’s the only way I am going to be working on what I love more often than what I need to do!
How about you? What’s been your experience?
These are this week’s picks:
a) For someone who keeps looking out for enhancing productivity, this seemed as a great article - until I reached the last point. An interesting read and something that would resonate with many of us http://www.inc.com/steve-tobak/10-things-you-need-to-quit-doing-right-now.html?cid=em01020week03a&nav=su
b) It really doesn’t qualify as a complete link. But as I am toying with ideas around networking as a topic for my upcoming writing efforts, this got me thinking. Loved the concept of ‘multiplex tie’ http://hbr.org/tip?date=120612&utm_campaign=Socialflow&utm_source=Socialflow&utm_medium=Tweet
c) If you don’t measure you cannot manage. But you cannot manage just because you measure! Tips for designing performance dashboards. http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/15xk9M/www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/2012/12/03/using-dashboards/
Book Title: What to do when there’s too much to do
Author: Laura Stack
It’s been sometime since I read a book on time management or productivity. With more opportunities presenting themselves in front of me and challenging me, I decided it is time to have a quick reiteration of the fundamentals of personal effectiveness. If you are a person who feels busy and hard pressed for time then you will find this book interesting. The subtitle of the book suggests that by following the prescribed system you can save upto 90 minutes a day; without compromising your sanity. As a writer teacher and consultant 90 minutes a day is a lot of extra time to feel more productive. But that is not only what I took away from the book.
To be honest, I have my own system for personal productivity. So when I looked up the book my intention was not to find a system but to validate my personal approach, improve it and rejuvenate myself to stay productive. This does not undermine the Productivity Workflow Formula (PWF) system developed by the author in the book. If you do not have a personal system already – this could be a good starting point.Personally I took away strongly the subtler hints of the author with respect to identifying what really matters, avoiding multi-tasking, shutting out distractions, approach to managing new age information channels and reducing inefficiencies.
An interesting chapter titled Manage Your Capacity provided much needed inputs on an often ignored aspect of productivity enhancement namely personal well being. The importance of taking breaks, getting adequate sleep, watching your diet, importantly exercising your body – all of these when managed creates in us the much needed energy to be able to do all planned aspects of personal and professional life in an effective manner.
The book is a useful reminder on leading a balanced life as against attempting to balance aspects of life!
Not one to get carried away with witty one-liners or pictures – I had to make an exception when I came across this last evening in a mailer.. Had me thinking for a long time as to how we always try to outsmart ourselves. More than the humor there is so much this picture reveals about our nature which is worth reflecting upon. Don’t you think?