Saturday, September 20, 2008

To-Do Lists

I’m already finding that having a written list of Things To Do is helping organize me. It’s not the first time I’ve written a list, but it is the first time I’m really making an effort to prioritize the items, and so far it’s working better. Not perfect, but better. Today I actually broke from my work and did about 10 minutes exercise – I put it as a #1 priority since I know I’ll always leave it otherwise, and it worked. Of course it takes the writer of any To-Do List to make it work and I’m in the right frame of mind so I’m bound to be moving forward with this. That makes me think; “kicking the habit” is always difficult, and for those of us who have tried kicking one, two or more, you know it works best when you are inspired to as opposed to just having made up your mind to; the latter I find often unmakes itself the same time your bed does and you wake up an all too familiar you. Doesn’t hurt knowing that I’m putting all my business out there for you all to read either that’s good motivation.

That said, I’m only starting to dip into this arena of planning and already my research has given me another book to read; Getting Things Done by David Allen. It’s supposed to be life changing. So I’m reading bits of that, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Karen Kingston and still, The Secret, Rhonda Byrne – reading has been added to my To Do List. I also downloaded some software which is supposed to help in this quest for serene organization – whether it will or no, I am as yet to decide. I do suspect that to some extent, whatever you get used to and use well will help, but I want more than that – I want to be happier not just getting more done – I don’t want to be working harder because I’m trying to be organized and achieve more – that defeats the purpose; I want to be working smarter. “Work Smarter, Not Harder” – who did say that? Wow, a little Googling later I find it seems this great phrase came from Scrooge McDuck of Ducktails. Foolish me, I was expecting one of the Great Gurus to pop up in the list…well, well, well. When I first heard the phrase Work Smarter, Not Harder it was one of those “Aha” moments and I’ve been meaning to follow that advice since…and now, years later, inspired and motivated, I'm giving it a whirl.

Back to the software – since I’m being money-conscious, I’m using open source and I found a Mac programme called DoIt which puts a little list-maker on your taskbar. There are similar programmes for windows, but for both OSs a lot of them work only online. While I love the idea of being able to access my stuff from anywhere, I’m pretty much at my desk for now, I can’t even always get online where I am, so a programme on my computer works better for me. But for those of you who are more portable in your work, a simple Google search will turn up loads. If you want help deciding, always search with “best” in front of what you’re looking for and you’ll find peer reviews come up.

All that said I’m not using any fancy software right now though; I made a simple 4 column table in Word headed up with TASK, PRIORITY, STATUS, FURTHER ACTION, listed everything then pulled them into order of priority -1,2,3. As I get something done I just enter the result and next action. I’m unsure whether putting times in would also help. I’m sure people who’re good at Excel could do one that roll’s over left over actions, but for me, this table is working fine. What I like about it is that I can put each day’s table together in a folder on my desktop – easily accessible and keep them for review at the end of the week. I’m not sure the DoIt software will do that too. If you need to move away from the computer to work of course you can always print it off too.

What the software does do (and others like) is work with the calendar-organizer programme, iCal in this case (Outlook etc) so I can enter events way in advance in the calendar and DoIt will pull them into my list as they come close. This would facilitate the longer term planning being integrated with current To Do lists. The programme will also allow me to link documents, websites, emails, etc to items, so if I have to “post my blog” I can put in the URL and it will open that window for me. Little things. I guess once you get used to using them they should save time and help limit things being forgotten. I am still a bit undecided and will probably end up having “review software” on my To Do List for a bit longer than I had planned. So I will take some time first to decide if that’s a wise or necessary investment right now.

In the meantime, my typed To Do lists nicely round off this planning effort for me – my techniques on how to use these various planning concepts together most effectively will, as I use them, no doubt unfold as they should. In the forward of Getting Things Done it’s observed that essentially there is no specific formula; each person’s situation, needs, personal preferences and life’s priorities will shape their use of the essential principles. For those who’d like to set up a simple Word To Do List – here’s my example as it stood at 5pm – some more items will have gotten done as I’m a 14 -16 hr day gal at the moment:

Alphabet Attitude for Today and Always: F is for Freedom