Many of us have some sort of ToDo-lists that seem to mysteriously grow larger for every passing day. Adding a lot of fun things to a list is easy, but later on it may become a burden.

ToDo-lists are not a vicious thing by nature. It’s how we handle them that matters.

Same thing goes for your daily life. You have a maximum number of hours in every day and that’s a fact that cannot be changed. When your calendar gets full, you cannot fill it with more activities without first removing something, or else all activities will suffer.

What is the key to effectively managing ToDo-lists and defeating procrastination?

Select

Write stuff down to get it off your mind, but be selective about which items you add to your list. You simply don’t have time to do all the things you want. Not even half of them. Try to believe that and you will never again write list items such as “ToDo: do ToDo-list”. We often have far more items on the lists than we can complete while living a normal lifestyle. My own vast lists would take several years to finsh if I ever would try anything as futile as that.

Combine

Consider consolidate items with other items, to get more effective while executing in a batch.

Eliminate

Is there anything that can be done in a few minutes? Just do it!

Any items that once had a purpose, but no longer? Delete them!

Structure

There are plenty of ways to structure the information, ranging from a pile of yellow notes to entering them in a task management system. There is no universal method that suits all personalities, so it’s all up to you.

Validate

Is it really necessary to do that particular list item? Will it matter in five years? What will happen if it is removed? Perhaps the quality of the other items will increase, as well as that of your life, and that is a good thing. Remember, a deleted item still counts as “done” in terms of the list.

For a more in-depth examination of the concept, check out the classic Getting Things Done by David Allen, which contains a lot of good advice. It can get a bit tedious at times, but give it a chance and cherry-pick the things that work for you.

I also recommend The 80-20 principle by Richard Koch, which explains the Pareto principle in great detail. The short summary is that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. Note that this could apply to both good things and bad things.

If you feel overwhelmed, try to think of it as having “too overambitious lists” rather than “insufficient time”. You can always do less things, but you can seldom give yourself more time. Be kind to yourself.

2 comments

  • avatar
    Johan
    11 Jul, 2006

    Ett annat sätt är att inte skriva ToDo-listor och låta gamla idéer falla i glömska när nya kommer. Betala räkningarna den 29:e och hämta ungarna på dagis kl. 15 är den enda man behöver memorisera – resten fixar sig.

  • avatar
    14 Jul, 2006

    Låta ideer falla i glömska? Låter förfärligt… ;)

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