Thursday, September 18, 2014

A List of Lists

I set myself up for a busy fall.  And now that it is fall I find myself overwhelmingly busy. More than I have been in years.  Don't get me wrong, I set myself up to do exciting things, new things, challenging things because I really want to do these things and I know I can get through it, but there comes a time when I just don't know what exactly I need to do at this particular moment to make the world now into the world of the future.

I make lists. I'm a list maker. I don't think I could quit if I tried. Here's a variety of lists that help me get through the busy times:

Simple To Do List

I like to give them titles. I also like to black out the completed items with a sharpie. I also like to tear up the list into very small pieces when it is complete. It's probably not the best idea to delve into the roots of those habits, so we'll just leave it at that.

However, it can be hard to get the right level of specificity on a simple to do list, especially at work.  A simple to do list that goes on for pages is more a reminder of the endless suffering you're enduring.  See, above, how washing the dishes and putting the dishes away are separate items? When I make my to do lists for home, I list each individual action associated with the laundry; start laundry; change loads; change loads; fold laundry; put clothes away. Otherwise, it doesn't actually happen and/or I don't feel like I've really done anything.

A subset of the Simple To Do List is the Completed Items list, which doesn't really work for me but I've heard good things from other people.

Five Things

So much of my day is spent answering little questions and putting out fires that I can lose focus on some of the larger things or easily find a way to avoid simple tasks that I don't want to do. In the past few weeks, I've been listing five substantial things that will make me feel like I've accomplished something meaningful during the day.  Here's what that looks like:


Done, Bitches

Now, once upon a time about five or six years ago, I was put in an extremely uncomfortable position that resulted in a lot of feelings in addition to a lot of complicated things to do in a very short time. I had to get my thoughts together about exactly what needed to happen, and I wrote them down in a very, uh, frank manner. I think I averaged two and a half epithets per list item. This list was on a private forum, and when I had completed items, I would strike them, exclaiming in all caps, "done, bitches." Which is how that sort of list is referred to by a certain set. It was very popular as a cohort were completing and defending their dissertations. I recommend using this sparingly, but when you need it, it is extremely effective.

So, what kind of lists do you make? How do you keep yourself on track in a busy time of year? Talk to me in the comments!

Keep Rockin,


Erin said...

I realized early on at MPOW that my days would get eaten up by Other People's Problems if I didn't make time for the things I wanted to accomplish. The thing that works best for me is keeping a 3-item daily to-do list in my planner. I can do more than what's on that list, but that's my baseline for productivity.

To populate my daily to-do list, I keep a master to-do list that's usually at the project level. For example, I currently have 'catalog football programs' on my master to-do list. The projects don't get broken down on that master list. Rather, I add the steps that make up that project (e.g., barcode and label) onto my 3-item list.

Anonymous said...

I rotate through list styles. Sometimes on paper, sometimes using an app. Sometimes by date, sometimes by priority, sometimes by category. I keep thinking that I'll find the perfect method, but really my problem is a failure to put things on the lists, and a failure to do them once they're there!

Anna said...

I make lists for groceries, because if I don't, I will buy everything else except for the thing I actually needed to get. For work, flag email messages with due dates and create tasks in Outlook with due dates if it's not an item associated with an email (i.e. project-based). Every day I work off of a search folder of items flagged to be done that day. What doesn't get done is pushed to the next day and so on. If it's something I just need to read or whatnot, I flag it for Friday, because that's what Friday afternoons are for. A good day is a day when everything in the Follow Up Today folder is marked complete.

When it's a particularly busy time of year and my schedule is getting consumed by other people's meetings, I try to block out time for projects/work at my desk. It doesn't happen often, thankfully. It's also a good reminder of what I'm supposed to be working on instead of reading blogs, etc.