My (newish) To-Do method

I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I’ve been using a new to-do method. I feel like I change to-do methods every few weeks/months. My current method I’ve been using since mid November.

Since I’ve started using this method, I’ve actually found my productivity has gone way up. Which is motivating me to keep using it.

The picture to the left shows my to-do list for yesterday (the day I’m writing this post). The picture was taken in the morning, so before I had actually done many of the tasks for the day.

How the to-do list works:

  • I use a steno notebook, which is just a lined notebook with the coil/binding at the top, and a line dividing the paper in half vertically.
  • At the top, I put the current date.
  • On the left hand side, I list the tasks I need to do for the day. If I have a task that can be broken down into subtasks, I list them below the main task, slightly indented.
  • Once a task has been completed, I cross it out in red.
  • Some tasks don’t have an obvious condition of finished (such as working on my candidacy document – I want to work on it, but I don’t expect to finish it). In these cases, I often draw squares next to the task. The squares represent a single pomodoro of work. I draw a number of squares representing the amount of work I want to do on that task that day.
  • Each day I don’t finish a task, I write it down again the next day, but underlined. And if the task remains unfinished again, it gets an extra underline the following day. (This was a suggestion from Barry Peddycord in a previous comment.)
  • The right side of the paper is used to write notes – things I want to bring up in a meeting, decisions made during meetings, things I need to remember, etc.
  • I generally plan out the next week on the weekend. But I’ll add to the list as the day/week progresses

What I’ve accomplished since using this:

  • I haven’t missed a day of 750 (my current streak is over 180)
  • I regularly back up my computer and water my plants (every Sunday now)
  • I write most of my blog posts the day before they’re posted
  • I spend more time being productive when I work on a task

I think I’m more productive now, because I only list what I need to work on that day instead of seeing a really long to-do list of everything I need to work on. It makes the tasks for the day seem reasonable. I can make sure that I keep my list a reasonable length with a high probability of being able to get all the tasks done. This helps prevent the to-do list from being stressful to look at. I found when I’ve used previous tools, where you list everything you need to get done, the length of the list made it hard to pick out a task and just work on it.

Another benefit of this method is that I can easily schedule tasks that need to be done regularly, like completing 750 each day or writing blog posts three times a week. Previous tools I’ve used have made this difficult. Once you mark that task done, it’s gone, and you have to just keep listing it. Here, while I do have to keep listing it, it’s okay, because the to-do list is only for a single day.

What do you do to keep yourself on track?

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