I recently totally confused a client by suggesting that he move all his “To DO” lists to a calendar. Many of have heard my rap on this; that grounding an intention in time makes it more likely to happen.
The poor man made ANOTHER calendar for To Do’s, bringing his total up to four. You can probably imagine the chaos that ensued.
I don’t really expect anyone to have only one calendar, as we all have different kinds of responsibilities; work or family or personal. I have two, my master time schedule is on my mobile phone and synced to my computer, but I also have a paper calendar at my desk for client appointments. Keeping these two straight is a daily exercise, much like the dreaded flossing of teeth, but I have learned to my peril that is just has to be done. Before I made double checking them a requirement for closing my laptop, I actually double booked a few people. Horrors, what did that say about my systems?
The only situation in which a LIST really works to track tasks is when they are connected. For example, a list of summer garden ideas, a list of things to take on a trip, or a list of steps I have to take to buy a new safe for my home. These connected things belong together so you can get them out of your head. I have some suggestions for places you can keep these lists below, but for now please consider that once you gather these actions in a list…unless you decide WHEN to do one or several of them, you’ve just created a piece of data…and that is all.
So what, you might say, I’m still closer to getting it done than I was before, right? It depends.
I see a heck of a lot of TO DO lists in my work, and while I agree that checking things off them is pleasant, there is also a lot of hair pulling and moaning about not wanting to decide when to actually act. As David Allen says, “everything on your task list either attracts or repels you psychologically.”
The relationship between doing and relaxing has always been a problem for me. I have a hard time relaxing when I know some boring or tedious chore is in the wings. It’s just how I am wired, so my challenge is to recognize when I could just as well let something wait in favor of getting some down time. Being able to look at my calendar and open space is my reward, and I am learning to let it stay open. I call it the ratio of Doing and Being, and it is the lynch pin of my sanity, health and happiness.
If you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and struggle to fit things into your day, using a calendar might just help you to be more realistic about what you expect yourself to accomplish.
Read that sentence again.
I know many people believe that they will never have enough time and that being “too busy” is a fact of life. Actually it is a fact of attitude. If you don’t believe me have a look at a book I reviewed a while back by Laura Vanderkam called 168 Hours,
Here are a few more links to books and ideas that might help re-balance your own ratio of Doing and Being:
I have not actually read Caroline Webb’s book, How To Have A Good Day, but I gather from reviews that she has some things to say about making To Do’s sexier.
- Frame the items on your to-do list in a positive way.
- Think about why your goals matter to you.
- Create a “when-then” plan.
- Make your goals smaller.
Let’s face it; buying a safe is not very sexy. Here is how I re-framed it:
1. Create a place to keep my precious stuff.
2. I know I have done my best to avoid a disaster.
3. Go see what is available and then call a friend for help (Thanks to J. and B. M!)
4. Gather what I want to store, then clear closet.
Julie Morgenstern is one of my favorite organizing mavens; I recommend all her books. I just noticed that her web site has a tag line I hadn’t noticed before. As it happens it is one of MY tag lines! Do I sound a bit possessive? I admit it, I have always liked saying that my business is “about space and time” and now Julie is saying it too. Perhaps I should be pleased. Anyway here is what she has to say about To Do’s:
5 Ways to create an “Intelligent” To-Do list:
- Capture your to-dos right away – the minute you think of them.
- Group similar tasks.
- Add time estimates. This is what makes the list intelligent.
- Start every task with an Action Verb. (Find, read, call….)
- Break large projects down into smaller, do-able steps.
Enough harping on calendars and time, so how shall you keep track of those other lists!?
There is always paper, but then what? Unless you keep a series of lists where you can get to them, they just vanish. Cluttering your desk surface is not a good idea, and I find that posting things on the wall makes them just as invisible, UNLESS there is only one of them at a time.
Since I do like my technology I’ve been experimenting with a couple digital approaches, OneNote and Evernote. Evernote has been on my computer and phone for quite a while and I just never really used it, probably because my calendar manages my actions, and other data wind up in my filing cabinet. In an effort to provide you all with options, I forced myself to play with it and then compare to OneNote.
It was really fun!
First I decided to invent some groups of data that I might want to keep. Just sticking ideas into either of these systems can work, but then you have to learn how to use the search functions.
Rather than recite comparisons, here is a great cheat sheet from our friends at Lifehacker.
I decided that even though OneNote is more Microsoft oriented (and I am a PC Person) I preferred Evernote’s appearance and ease of making new notebooks on the fly. OneNote made me crazy as I could not figure out how to make it do that one simple thing.
The other really fun thing about these apps is that they both have web clipping features that let you grab info off the Internet and store it in a place that makes sense to you. It helps if you set up that place first. OneNote does have one very cool thing, (thanks to B.C. for the tip) it will take pictures of things from your smart phone, like documents or receipts, clean them up for you and put them where directed.
I hope these ideas help you take control of you own ratio of Doing and Being!!
As I write it’s the first day of 80 degree weather and I have other things to be being.