Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Make your lists work for you, not against you!

I love all things Getting Things Done by David Allen. It's a book, systems,  you can even find products on the shelf at Staples.  To be honest, I don't implement all of his ideas, or take them to the nth GTD degree, but I take what works for me and use it.  Now he's changed my mind about lists.

In the latest GTD newsletter , Allen explains why lists have earned a bad name and gives great advice about how to use lists effectively.  He outlines how you can learn to "love your lists".

To change your relationship with "lists" to a more positive one:
1) Make them you only need to review what you actually can do at the time.

2) Make sure every actionable item has the very next visible physical action identified along with it...

3) Only put items that cannot be done any other day on your calendar, and everything else hold in "as soon as I can get to them" lists.

I'm sticking to my guns on my stand that the shelf life of anything on a "to-do list" should be a week at the max. If you are rolling items from list to list, that's a problem. If something is important enough to do, it's important enough to have a target date.  However, I especially like Allen's third point.  Have a list of tasks that are parked until you have time for them.  This works well with my time blocking obsession.  Block time on your calendar for types of tasks, administrative tasks, for example, then use that time to clear your list.

The combination of list and calendared block of time ensures you will, indeed- get things done.

Take a look at David Allen's newsletter for more information; each of the points has more description.  And, if your lists are more of a problem than a plus when it comes to stress management and prioritization- get your act together and make some changes!