My dad had to-do lists and my parents still laugh at how, when I was small, I wrote my own, starting with “Wake up,” which I then carefully checked off.
More recently, I went through a phase of reading about being more efficient. In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen suggests putting everything – and he means everything – into the task list and calendar of Outlook. (Personally, I hate Outlook and don’t use it. Does it still have the charming habit of suddenly sending the email you are still writing?)
He’s right, though. If you put all those niggling things – call the plumber, buy those special lightbulbs – down somewhere, where you know you will see them, you can put your mind at rest.
In The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz points out something that is easy to forget: human beings are not machines and need to take breaks, get enough sleep, move their bodies. A schedule that doesn’t factor that in is worthless.
Because I work at home, I have to keep myself on track. When you go to a regular job, at a workplace, with co-workers, there is structure there that I just don’t have.
I use my to-do list, not just to make sure I am doing what I need to do, but also to prioritize, to stay realistic and to balance things (like time with the kids versus work).
Also, I’m a believer in “A little every day gets the job done.” If you want to do something, like keep a blog, say, if you make time for it every day, even 5 minutes, you will get it done.
This all makes my multi-page, weekly, daily to-do list comically complicated.
Works for me, though.