With time our to-do-list might grow lengthy. Perhaps it was quite a few years since we decided to gather all tasks in a single to-do-list, and with time it has swelled with all kinds of things that need doing. It keeps getting longer, and that is OK. It does not have to end — ever. There will always be more things we either need or want to do.
For you who prefer listening to reading, this post is also available as an episode of the “Done!” podcast:
Of course we should strive to complete the tasks we need to do today, and do our best to do all the important tasks needing to be done soon, but to do, complete and finish everything I ever though of that I might want to do (and hence put on my list) is at least not one of my goals.
Anything but done
The list does admittedly grow somewhat ”foggy” with time. It now contains things we have decided to do, but also things we think we might want to do at some point, or ideas of things we could or should be doing. When we browse the list there are some tasks that catch our attention, which we begin to consider doing, but then conclude that ”on second thought, I’ll do that some other day”, and we continue browsing. They distract us, the tasks we once thought we should do, but which we now do not see the appeal or necessity in.
The list has become a ”to-perhaps, maybe-do”-list, which has a whole other ring to it than a ”to-do-list”.
Definitely — not maybe
Only add things you really want to do to the to-do-list, not things you think you might potentially and perhaps want to do at some point. Instead, keep all the things you might want to do in a ”sometime, maybe”-list. Many digital list-tools have some form of list titled ”Someday / Maybe” or the likes.
You do not need to keep an eye on this list, because if the tasks on this list are not done in a long while, it does not really matter or cause problems. You review it once a month and see if there is anything you previously thought you might want to do, that you now actually want to do. If so, move the task onto your actual to-do-list and there you go — it will now get done sometime soon.
If you want to make your to-do-list more clear and clean, try this:
- Skim through your to-do-list and look for tasks which you are not certain you want to or should do. They might once have been a great idea, but you are not so sure this is still the case.
- Transfer the tasks you are not so sure about to your ”sometime, maybe”-list instead.
- Add a point to the checklist of your weekly run-through that if it is the first week of the month, you will browse the ”sometime, maybe”-list and potentially activate tasks which are now relevant.
Don’t be so hard on yourself — just tighten up the list
If you make sure that your to-do-list solely contains concrete and clear instructions of tasks that are relevant and which you have consciously decided to do, it will become much easier to work with. And, as a bonus, it will become shorter. Given that it is the right time, that you have time, and that you are in the right location, you will be able to act on any item on the list without hesitating. And from now on, you will never again be distracted by irrelevant tasks when browsing the list for the next right thing to do.
What is your way?
Where do you write down all the ideas of things you could do, but are not yet certain you want or should do right now? Do you have a designated place for ideas? Tell me!
(I write above that you should have a single to-do list, but that’s a truth with modification. There are situations where it’s not the end of the world if you have multiple lists anyway.)
There's more where this came from
If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.