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To Do Lists

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  • To Do Lists

    I love David Allen's books and communication style. Really cool. Tried keeping a master list. But it was overwhelming me with all that I had to do and I became stuck doing nothing. Julie Morgenstern made an interesting suggestion during a seminar I watched on TV early one morning advising one to not keep long to-do lists because she said you never complete them. I know I kept adding to my master to-do list but I tried my best not to look at it for too long.

    Ms. Morgenstern suggested that if you have something to do, schedule it. Sounded good to me. So I deleted my entire list of hundreds of projects and tasks and somedays and all the other lists and filled my Outlook Tasks master list with items I planned to complete within the next couple of weeks only. I cannot tell you how relaxing and freeing it feels to actually delete completed items regularly. I don't have that many items on there - just what I actually plan to do. I utilize the start date feature to keep me aware of how long an item has been there. If it has not moved off of my list in 2 weeks and I need to do it, I break it down into smaller and smaller actions until I can handle it. I do keep standard lists, i.e. grocery, packing lists, etc.

    I agree with David Allen that you need to get stuff out of your head, but I have decided that if it's in there and I need to do it, I'll either place it on my list to do within a couple of weeks, or I'll place the next action towards completion on my list. That's it. I no longer even list all of my next actions for projects on my list as I once did. That keeps my next actions flexible.

    At this point my psyche cannot even handle a someday list so I don't keep one of those either. If I really want to do it I don't need to list it.

    My mind is fresh and fluid - "flowing like water" - constantly flushing out the clutter and at the same time allowing fresh ideas to flow in and out until something interests me enough to add an action to my calendar or task list.

    So far it's working for me - I'm not nearly as stressed and I am actually getting something done, but I'm sure I'm missing something. Or am I?

    Last edited by Radiance; 09-18-2005, 04:49 PM.

  • #2
    I think that it's great that you've been able to find some kind of peace related to all of the "stuff" that you've got on your plate!

    One thing I'd like to point out, though, is that writing down EVERYTHING that has your attention only codifies those items - it doesn't actually give you more to do...

    You either have to do something or you don't... you either need tires or you don't need tires. By not writing everything down, you are simply doing the psychological equivalent of shoving all of the junk in your room under your bed rather than cleaning it up!

    Yes, it's out of site and the room looks clean... but in the back of your mind somewhere you KNOW that you've got all of this junk in a heap under your bed.

    One of the things that has helped me come to grips with my total-life inventory is to stop thinking of my next actions as "to do's". Rather, I just think of them as reminders of stuff that needs to get done. If I don't "get them done", it simply means that I've been doing other things that are more important at the moment.

    If something "must" get done (or else it will die), I put it on my calendar and do it. So... that's not really all that different than what Ms. Morgenstern suggests. However, I didn't do away with my other lists. All of those other items can wait, and there are placeholders there to remind me that something still needs doing.... I don't know if that makes any sense, but I hope it shed some insight on another perspective.
    Last edited by jkgrossi; 09-18-2005, 05:49 PM.


    • #3
      To Do Lists

      Ummm, yes, that is another perspective, jkgrossi. What you're speaking of here is stacking the clutter - or "heap of junk" - into neat and ever growing storage containers. In one area.

      I don't just stack the stuff to review it weekly - I clear it completely out of my home. So the room doesn't just look clean - it is clean. Do you understand what I'm getting at here, jk?

      Now funny you should bring up tires because I do need new tires. Since I drive my car regularly, it is not likely I will forget that. But to get it out of my head,

      (1) I could place it on my task list to get it done within 2 weeks,

      (2) or if I'm not going to have it done within the 2-week timeframe, I could break it down into next actions so that it will stay on my task list, but moving forward as an action (i.e. get quotes within next 2 weeks, make decision on where to buy within 2 weeks, etc) - just break it down into 2-week timeframes until I'm ready to purchase them.

      (3) Or I could place a reminder on my calendar for say ..November 15th to look into buying tires or as a reminder of the tire sale. I would not leave it on my task list until November 15th because again - I don't want to leave it there to keep looking at it. My reminder list as I have it set up is to have items moving in and out of there within a 2-week timeframe, or

      (4) I could just have the tires replaced.

      I have my jewelry cleaned every 6 months. As a reminder, I place having that done as events on my calendar setting Outlook up to notify me a week in advance of each cleaning date, then snooze setting a periodic reminder down to the date. Then that's off of my mind until the reminder pops up. What I would not put on my calendar is a someday item. I have no someday items anymore. I only use my calendar for current or recurring activities.

      I don't want to be involved with so much that in order to control it I create lists, lists, and more lists of reminders of what I don't have time to do. I don't want my head crowded with so much that needs my attention, no matter how neatly it is stacked. What works for me is to keep current and future actions and projects in a moving state, flowing in and out. This keeps me moving forward and that works for me.

      But I do appreciate your comments and your point of view, jkgrossi. Dialogue such as yours inspires me to think and consider other ideas which could enhance my way of staying organized. Thank you.
      Last edited by Radiance; 09-20-2005, 07:27 AM.


      • #4
        Radiance, it sounds to me like one way of describing your system is that you put all your someday items into a calendar or tickler system instead of maintaining a separate list.

        Peace of mind about your stuff seems to come from having a system that you trust and that works for you, not adhering to Martha Stewart-like standards of proper bedroom orderliness!


        • #5
          I feng shui'd my to-do list and established flow

          Right, ActionGirl, except that I don't have a list of somedays like I once did. For instance, I want to someday take more culinary classes, learn to play keyboards, travel to Japan, learn Krav Maga, run a marathon - those types of things I no longer keep on a list. If there is something that I really want to do I'm likely not going to forget it. So I don't have a someday list in that sense. I don't look at jewelry cleaning as a someday - I'm looking at it for my purposes as a maintenance item, like having my car serviced would be.

          The important thing for me was to find something that would help me to move forward. I've tried Covey, Robbins, Allen, Franklin - I've tried many systems as most of us have probably done. Bits and pieces of all were useful to me, but the whole systems don't fit my internal wiring. I finally had to sit down and put some thought into what it is that I need to get me going and how I need it to work for me, then I created it. I'll change it as needed, but I'm finally moving forward and for me "that's a good thing" .

          Thanks for your thoughts, ActionGirl. Like that handle, by the way.
          Last edited by Radiance; 09-19-2005, 07:50 AM.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Radiance
            I finally had to sit down and put some thought into what it is that I need to get me going and how I need it to work for me, then I created it. I'll change it as needed, but I'm finally moving forward and for me "that's a good thing" .
            I think that's fantastic! I mean, that IS the ultimate goal here, isn't it? I'm a firm believer in the idea that you need to find the "tricks" that work for you (DA himself has refered to his GTD system in that very light as well - as a series of tricks). Good luck!


            • #7
              I wish the original poster the all the best with the new system. My thought in reading it is that it a theme I see repeated over and over---my system was out of control, so I went to a new system, and the new system is working great. Over the last 25 years, I have been through quick a few systems, and every one of them worked great when I implemented it. I have come to realize that more than anything else, I was cleaning things up. Maybe if instead of getting rid of what I was doing, I had taken a little time to clean up the current one, I cold have saved myself quite a bit of time.


              • #8
                I don't mean to imply that I have gotten no benefit from GTD. I have, especially processing paperwork via the Workflow Diagram, the idea of obtaining and remaining in a "ready" state - which I find a lot easier to do if I don't have all of this stuff somewhere in my life waiting to demand my attention, and the 6-level model of review. I have or will incorporate much of GTD into my planning as needed, but in a way that works for me.

                What I have done is to eliminate "stuff" from my life. If I'm not working on it now - even if it's a teeny tiny next action moving me forward - I don't want it on any list, nor on my calendar - unless it's a maintenance or recurring event. The benefit to me is that I have lightened my mental (and physical) load considerably.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Radiance
                  If there is something that I really want to do I'm likely not going to forget it.
                  Interesting. For me, I want to forget the items on my Someday/Maybe list. I don't want to have to remember them. I don't want to spend any time having Someday/Maybe projects pop up in my memory.

                  Once I moved to having a Someday/Maybe list, the items on my Someday/Maybe list completely disappeared from my mind. I only see them once a week as part of the weekly review; the rest of the time I can concentrate on what needs to be done, without future projects floating into my consciousness at all.