A Tale of Two To-Dos (4-20-16)

Posted by Jennifer Lasik on

Years and years ago, when I was just beginning my quest to get organized, I asked my father-in-law how he managed his daily tasks.  Dad explained that every day he wrote the list of what he had to do on a notepad (so far, so good, right?) Anything that didn't get done got transferred to the next day's list.

I tried it and quickly discovered a "flaw" for ne'er-do-wells like myself:  Certain tasks got passed from one day to another to another indefinitely.  It was too easy to keep procrastinating because every day was a fresh start -- too fresh.

Some time after that, my boss (who, like Jody, was hyper-organized) sat me down and taught me some tips for organization and follow-through.  He also had a list of to-dos that he added to constantly.  Same tool, but he had one small yet important difference in process:  he would not allow himself to discard (in his case, tear off and throw out) a page of the list until EVERY task on it had been checked off.  That one, lone, pesky, hanging-on task would drive him absolutely nuts when he was three or four pages down the list and couldn't rid himself of the marked-up, wrinkled page.  It was all the incentive he needed to buckle down and get that last thing done.

The method totally worked for me. Seems kind of silly, doesn't it?  I mean, it's MY list.  What was to keep me from just crossing it off or tearing the page off and then rewriting that one thing?  Rules, my friend.  Honor, folks.  Courage, fellow seekers of organizational bliss.  I had made a deal with myself and followed my own rules.  And like my smart boss, I found that having ONE or even two things left on that crazy list was enough motivation to finish it up.

I realize I may have thrown some of you into a tailspin with the phrase "tear the page out".  One of our team members, Fred, is probably grinding his teeth and sweating right now.  He doesn't throw completed lists away.  He keeps them as a record so he can look back to see when it was completed, the progress he has made, what things he already did, etc. etc. (Fred has a million justifications for what he calls record-keeping and what I call clutter-creating.)

Fine, fine.  For the "Freds" of the world -- no shame -- the method still works.  Instead of tearing it out, just check it off, paperclip it to the "done sheets", preserve it in a binder -- whatever works for you. 

The end goal is productivity.

And if this all sounds too fussy and structured for you, you can always employ team member Rebecca's method -- jot down your to-dos on a random scrap of paper, cross the first thing off and then promptly lose the scrap.  (Bec, stop me when I lie! )  And in case you think I am being too hard on Rebecca, just know that she probably has the IQ of all of us combined and is the quintessential brilliant, absent-minded professor.

In the end, it's your life, your way, every day.  (But some "ways" may be more efficient than others -- just sayin'.)

Anyway, thanks for reading and make a difference out there!


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