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Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: New Twists to To-Do Lists

I was pretty busy this past week and weekend playing a ballet run. Yesterday during the performance, I was also thinking about my to-do list while I was counting rests in the music. At first, I couldn't think of anything to put on my list, but after a minute's reflection, I thought of one thing. Following on the heels of that thought were two more quick thoughts that I needed to put on my list as well. Three I could handle in my mind, I thought, and I could hold those thoughts until intermission in the performance when I would have time to write those thoughts down or enter them in my iPhone.

My mistake. Just my having those three thoughts was enough for the creative juices to flow. I quickly grabbed a piece of paper from my purse and scribbled down my thoughts. Within 10 minutes I had at least 10 items on my list. And having 10 items, brand new too I might add from items that have been on my list last week, was enough to discourage me from taking any more steps. Not good.

Then I remembered the to-do tips from Stephanie Winston's book Getting Organized. In her book, Ms. Winston recommends a master to do list. This is the catch-all list for everything you need to do. If you think of something that needs doing, put it on the master list.

The master list is not the same thing as the daily list. It is the master list of everything that needs doing. I think I've mastered the master list. I have compiled a masterful master list. OK, enough with the jokes.

It is true though that I have no trouble coming up with things to put on the master list. My problem is that my master list is too overwhelming for me to make much progress on it, at least not in that form. I need a way to sort through the items on the master list.

I use a trick I learned from Brian Tracy. Mr. Tracy has written and recorded so many different programs, and I have listened to most, if not all, of them, that I'm not sure where exactly I got this next tip. Mr. Tracy advocates going through the master list according to the A-B-C-D-E approach:

A - Assign a task "A" if it is urgent, needs to be done right away, has an immediate (or very soon in the future) deadline, or dire consequences will result if you do not complete the task now.

B - Assign a task "B" if it is important but nothing bad will happen if it isn't done today.

C - Assign a task "C" if it would be nice to do but nothing bad will happen if it isn't done (and perhaps it needn't be done, hint, hint).

D - Assign a task "D" if it can be delegated to someone else for completion.

E - Assign a task "E" if it should be eliminated.

I go through my master list and find all the A tasks. Then I find the B tasks. Then C tasks. I cross out E tasks and talk myself into putting some tasks on the D list if at all possible.

Next I go through and pull out the A tasks in a separate list. I go through the A tasks and look for the most important one and assign it "A-1." Then I go through the rest of the list and find the next most important A task, and the next, until I've assigned a number to all of the A tasks. Sometime I need to number my A tasks in a particular sequence because some tasks need to be completed before others can be done.

I start with the A-1 task and do that until it's finished. Then I start in on A-2 task and continue with my action steps. Every few days I review my master list and see if there are any new A items or any B items that now need to be reassigned to the A category.

Perhaps this seems like a bit of work to get the to-do list items organized, but consider that the work you put into this organization of your to-do list also helps you to clarify your thinking about the project and about the tasks that you need to complete. Just thinking about your tasks in this manner will go a long way toward helping you to complete your action items.

So what should you do with new items or any items left on your master list? Here's a tip I learned from Stever Robbins, the Get it Done Guy, http://quickanddirtytips.com:

Draw a line at the bottom of your master list, and add any new items below the line. Every time your review the items above the bottom line, you must do something about those items. If you go through the list three or more times without actually doing anything on the list, you need to consider just eliminating the items on that list. Meanwhile, you have been adding and sorting and prioritizing the new items that you've written below the line.

You can continue in the same fashion or just start a new list on a new page, which sometimes makes it so much easier to think about when the page is clean. Make your master list, then draw a line at the bottom. Go through your list prioritizing and sorting. Every time you look through your list, you should take action on something on the list. If you go through the list three times or more without doing anything on any item above the line, then consider dropping the item. It is fine to cross out the item and move it to the bottom of the new list.

I've also developed another trick to remind me of my to-do list. I write my smaller list on the Notepad function of my iPhone. Then I take a picture of the to-do list in my notepad application (hold down the power button and press the home button at the same time. When the buttons are released, you will hear the phone taking a picture). Then I set that picture of my to-do list as the lock screen on my phone. Every time I turn on my phone, I see my current to-do list. Whenever I change my to-do list, I take a new picture.

Hope everyone has a great week!

1 comment:

  1. The best thing about a to-do list is crossing items off the list as they are accomplished!