Slowness breeds to do lists!
I hate it when I have a slow day. Sitting around in dull meetings, getting dehydrated and eating at the wrong times, I fill the the time by making to do lists.
When I get back to my office, I see, laid out in front of me, all the things I could and should be doing. And can’t settle to any.
When I was a youngster, I loved a to-do list labelled with A’s B’s and C’s. I liked making calls and crossing things off. I hate it now. I like dealing with larger chunks of work and I like working towards a goal that has some meaning. “Getting things done” no longer does it for me.
My rationale now is to figure out one or two things that are very important and just do those. As long as something important is being done, and getting finished and getting shipped, a list adds no further value.
But in times when I have a long list, these are the methods that I have found useful.
#1 Yellow stickies
I use an ordinary A5 diary. For every little task that I have to do, I add a yellow stickie, upside down. The stickies go down the page in columns, overlapping each other. That’s why it is important they are upside down. The top line gives the title of the task and the details are covered by the next sticky though visible by lifting up the sticky below.
As I complete a task, I rip off the sticky with glee, and put it on the corner of my desk. At the end of the day, I have a pile of completed stickies and hopefully a clear diary. If not, I can move the stickies to another page.
And when I need to record my actions, I record what I have done on the page itself.
#2 Access data base
Access databases are pretty handy for projects which have many detailed steps, each of which must be completed precisely and in a particular order. Anything which needs a PERT analysis is suitable for a database.
Each sub project is put in a table with tasks, expected dates, actual dates and costs. The report function can be used to list all the tasks that need to be done in the next day, week or month and of course to check that everything has been done.
#3 Google Wiki
I’ve recently discovered Google’s Project Wiki, on Google Sites. It is not really a wiki – linkages from page-to-page are limited. It’s more like an electronic filoax! It is a full project template where you can add to do lists, time sheets, blogs, documents and pretty much anything else except perhaps a GANTT shart and a PERT analysis.
That’s what I am using now. I’ll store away every zany idea in my Google Wiki and add a column for priorities. My personal kanban will become the top items that I’ve resolved to start and finish. The choice is start and finish, or start and dump. What’s not allowed is more than two or three open tasks.
What’s more, I can add dates that I completed work so I can review my progress at the end of each month.
The front page in the wiki is also useful because it prompts you to put in a strategic plan, which after all you can do for the next quarter!
My only reservation is all the information that I am giving to Google.
Here are you then – three time management systems for grown-ups!
1. Yellow stickies for bitty projects and a physical reward for knocking off tasks
2. Data bases for precise projects where tasks must be done in order and on time.
3. Google Project Wiki for messy jobs where it’s not really possible to tell priorities ahead of time but it important to work on on chunk at a time, finish and ship!
If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:
You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A mobile version is available too.