About a month ago, I started putting together a to-do list at work. It sits neatly on my Palm and became a good reminder of all the little crap I needed to do when I finished a major product and couldn’t remember what I should be doing next. It also goes a long way to correcting (ruining?) that feeling of not having anything to do when you’re sitting in front of the computer refreshing Google News every five minutes.
It worked so well that a week later I set up a to-do list for my writing in my Moleskine. The notebook is with me all the time (unlike the Palm), it keeps my job work and writing work separate, and it’s faster than flipping through all my notes (or the index I adopted over the summer) to see what I’ve got cooking when my mind goes blank.
The only problem is these lists look rather daunting at first. I wrote my to-do list on a right-hand page near the back of the Moleskine, thinking I’d have plenty of room. Wrong! I filled it up in about two minutes and if I add anything more I’ll be overflowing to the left page. Why is it so easy to forget how busy I really am?
I’ve long thought organization is a big part of my problem. I’m just scatterbrained by nature. I obsess about new tasks and forget old ones. I’m lucky if I’ll be able to finish this blog post if something shiny catches my eye while I’m working on it. I looked into the Getting Things Done (GTD) system, but I don’t want to make this a religion, nor do I want to spend time learning (and obsessing over) a whole new system. Just cursory looks at some of the GTD-oriented software was enough to realize I’m not near anal enough for GTD.
A simple to-do list I can handle. Everyone knows how a to-do list works: you make a list and cross things off as you accomplish them. But it turns out there’s a little bit of art to it, too, as shown in this Lifehack article. Most of it is just tips on handling your to-do list and how to make sure you don’t just put it aside and start another one the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Yes, a lot of it is common sense. But think about it: how much of it do you actually do?
I don’t know that something as simple as a to-do list will make 2008 my “best year ever,” but it’s a start.