To Do Lists

To Do Lists?

I love them. I have a very deep love for to do lists. But I want to not just write to do lists, I want them to help me write better. For me Chuck Wendig style flailing and shouting isn’t actually useful. Yes, but what will I write? Which project? How much? By when? Me? I need structure. All brains love structure, but I know mine does and I want to feed it structure so it can barf out success.

Try and try and try again

I’ve been trying different varieties for a while and narrowing down what really helps. I just don’t like digital to do lists. I have no doubt that this will come as a shock to people who know me and know how much I love tech stuff, all the tech stuff. But for me there is something wonderfully visceral about having a to do list and crossing things off and then throwing it away when it is done. Crumpling up my phone and tossing it away and sighing with success is not really a thing.

Physical lists

So with a physical list and mostly focusing on weekends, I tried a bunch of things. I tried just making a straight up list of everything that needed to be done. Overwhelming.  I tried making a list broken out with each chunk of the day and what I was going to do. Better, but unsatisfying.

These were sort of my two main points after some very unsuccessful attempts earlier that included digital lists, lists of only the next 2 and 3 things that needed to happen, lists that only showed the task I was supposed be working on at that moment. Just didn’t work.

What works for me

A multipart list has worked best for me. It basically comes in two parts, the primary list and bonus.

A list chunked out Friday PM/Sat AM/Sat PM/Sun AM/Sun PM. Broken out like this I can have a general idea of what I’m supposed to be doing, if I have brunch plans they can be listed, but they won’t take up the whole chunk of that space. So it stops me from feeling like I’ve just overwhelmed a part of my day with a social obligation (yes, I’m an introvert, why do you ask?). It also gives me a way to check and see how I’m doing without checking too frequently.

The bonus tasks list is a list of things that I can do and cross off at any point during the weekend. It isn’t a huge problem if they don’t get done at all, but they also help me to not feel like I am only treading water. Adding the bonus tasks really helped me to feel like whoohoo! I’m ahead of the game. Which is really where I want to be. Simply adding all those additional tasks to the primary task list made me feel like I wasn’t getting ahead and I was falling behind if I wanted to do something like put off taking the trash out until the next time I was leaving the house. All the stress was not productive and I got less done.

What are bonus tasks? For me they are mostly household things. They are easy and fast to do and I get to cross them off. I know chances are very good I will do them. They are easy to do when I need to take a break from whatever it is I’m working on. They are also sometimes things for writing or the podcast that could be done now but aren’t really needed for a while.

So partial day chunks with a bonus task list. Generally created Friday morning before work, sometimes Thursday evening. I have found a tasking plan that works for me!

Any problems?

A weird and specific to me problem is audio recording. I need to be mindful of running the washing machine, turning on the heat, or my robot cleaner when I want to do audio. The sound is usually one I can clean out, but it is easier and faster if I just don’t have it there to start with. It is mostly something to be aware of. I also know I tend to do those things in the morning so I put audio recording duties as afternoon tasks.

What is your motivating, planning, get to creating style?

2 thoughts on “To Do Lists

  1. I love lists! I use them at work, at home, on projects. . . I have also been known to add an easy or almost complete task to the list just to cross it off so I can see all I accomplished.

    1. Me too. I sometimes will add “Finish weekend task list” on my Bonus Tasks list. It’s just seeding the list toward accomplishment.

      I’ve always been a list maker but I was just feeling like it wasn’t really working the way I wanted so I tried a bunch of different ways of making the list to figure out what worked best. I’m sure I’ll do it again. And I’ll add “Decide on list making strategy” to the list when I do.

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