Your task list is the primary tool for getting the right things done, gaining important insights and celebrating all that you have achieved.
It’s a healthy cycle in life and business.
Your task list is one of the most useful and important tools you have.
The value we create, is more than the work we do.
The insights we gain over time are significant.
We need more people getting into the good habit of celebrating all they have done. Feeling good about it – instead of focusing on the few things they didn’t have time or energy for.
We will be more motivated if we remember and appreciate our efforts. We feel better about ourselves and have more energy left for creating and being creative.
We will be more inclined to maintain good lists for our tasks, objectives, and outcomes. And more likely to get the right things done toward the world we want to live in.
It’s a healthy cycle.
If it’s not written, it didn’t happen
Things do get done, even if they are not written down and put on a list. They are prioritised, delegated, supported, managed, overseen, controlled, verified, reported. And become part of something big and valuable.
But there is a good chance that all the great efforts being done. Will soon be forgotten, as we continuously move on to the next task on hand.
We ourselves tend to forget most of our achievements. Everything we’ve been through and experienced, people we’ve worked with, our successes. Yet, many of our mistakes, things that didn’t go as planned. They seem to stick quite well in our memories – and pop up when we least need them.
We all like to be recognised for our contributions and achievements. Preferably by people around us acknowledging them on their own. So if you forget – how can you expect others to remember, and appreciate you for it ?
It’s difficult to have an objective conversation with others about past ‘performance’. If you only remember or take note of the highlights. They are important, and so are all the efforts leading up to and paving the way for them.
It is even more important for your personal self-evaluation.
When trying to get a better understanding of what you have achieved, how you spend you time and energy. It is the ‘smaller’ tasks that make up most of it. And if you measure only by highlights, what you see is signals – not trends.
You’re not supposed to memorise
Some labor under the perception that we are supposed to remember every little task and priority. If we can’t – we are somehow not capable of doing our jobs.
Truth is. On a busy day, most people can’t reasonably remember more than 7 items, let alone their correct order. We tend to repeat the same few items internally, and instead of having 4 or 5 things to do – it feels as 10 or 15.
Using energy on memorising tasks and priorities, will only take away from creating value and solve challenges.
In an increasingly global and complex world. Where we amass many times more data year by year – some of it useful. We are expected to “know our numbers” by heart. Product and industry statistics across continents – years back. And the mandatorily ever rising predictions for the future.
We have spend the past decades developing advanced realtime analytics and information systems. Knowing where to find the right data, understanding them, and making good decisions. Are a much better use of our fabulous brains than memorising.
Those few facts and statistics that repeats – they’ll stick. We should instead spend more time researching and learning.
87 yellow post it notes on your desk and screen might be your style, or a notebook, your inbox – or a combination.
Regardless. I suggest you keep everything in one place, in a portable format.
Your sentiment could be that writing everything down, amounts to a list of frustrations over all the things we can’t find time for and can’t afford.
Or with time, begin to feel you have too many items on your list. That there’s no purpose or reason to keeping them.
But in a week, a month or in three years. You’ll find old ideas useful, be able to find part of solutions you need in that moment.
And you’ll most likely be able to see patterns, realise which areas or dreams you keep coming back to. Hopefully you will find enough bits and pieces surrounding your impossible dreams – that they begin to look possible. You see paths and solutions.
Everything cannot and will not be equally important in the same moment – naturally.
We can add a simple priority structure to all our items. Keeping them consistent will help us see our status at a glance, rather than having to interpret individually per area or list we have.
|A – Immediate action||What we must do right now|
|B – Core objective||What we are currently working on|
|C – Support core||Anything that will help us with our Core objectives|
|D – Next core||Upcoming priorities|
|E – Explore||Research, new ideas and suggestions|
|F – Re-explore later||Things we have decided to do or pick up again later|
|Z – Not doing||What we have decided not to do – doesn’t fit with us.|
With or without priorities, items can have several categories and tags. Further helping see them in relation to each other. And illustrate or discover connections and overlapping ideas feeding into multiple topics.
This can be on separate pages in a notebook – (keep several pages in-between topics). Or using filters, kanban boards or other means to organise and work with tasks on PC, tablet or phone.
You can use as many categories or tags as you want and need. Though it helps to ensure they are meaningful and convey both ‘what it is’ – and ‘what it means’ to you.
With categories, you will see patterns over time. It gives you a chance to evaluate the bigger picture. Are you doing the right things, are you spending your time on efforts that will carry you toward a future you’ll be happy with? the life you want to live.
Individual items accumulated over time, will tell you how many things you did. Give them a category or other type of grouping, and you get insights – you learn about yourself, your job, your business.
See what’s hidden
I was eating healthy, exercising, drinking plenty of water, sleeping regular hours. But didn’t see the results I wanted.
Then, after recording what I dined and drank for a month. I found that 25% of all calories, came from my 5-6 daily cappuccinos. Even with skim milk.
Several learnings came from it.
That except for too many cappuccinos, I did have a healthy diet. I blew away my efforts with one habit. Taking notes helps keep us on track and see what’s hidden.
Pen and paper, a simple notebook – are great for taking notes, dotting down ideas, sketching and doodling. Unless you’re a wizard with a tablet, there are few better alternatives.
But for keeping track off and organising your thoughts, ideas, things to do, web links, articles, pictures. And easily share them with others – so you can create great things together. You need to go digital.
Have it with you everywhere. Not to check it every 5 minutes, but to have it with you – so you don’t worry about forgetting something. Knowing you’re well organised, will help you from fretting over it at all hours.
You can share lists with family, friends and colleagues. Add items, check them off as you go about your day. Be updated when others complete theirs, and take notes as you solve issues, add documents, images, etc.
It is a simple and effective way to keep everyone included, informed, share ideas and helping each other with all that needs doing. And it’s great for avoiding double work and misunderstandings.
Categories, visuals, sorting, searching and filtering all becomes easier.
Especially when doing your regular review of goals and objectives, and for preloading and preparing your next steps.
An image speaks a thousand words. But colours will do quite nicely too.
Use colour codes and preferably images as much as possible, especially for longer running and recurring tasks.
Colours will give you an overview at a glance. Whether for a simple list or a full screen. Use different colours for priority, status and categories of tasks. And be mindful of those who are visually impaired or colourblind – use a set of strong and clearly separate colours.
Text describes ‘what the task is’, categories and colour coding their ‘state and status’. Images invoke emotion, memories and deeper meaning much better and faster than words. They’re faster to scan and find than words – it’s how we naturally function.
An image representing the original idea or dream you’re working towards. Will inspire and guide you, in the same way brands use visuals to remind what they “are about”.
Looking at a page with images, the combined view of a project or your future outcomes, inspiration to solve a challenge. It is vastly more interesting and inspiring than a list of words – well to most people. It works like a mood board – and engages a wider part of your brains creative functions.
Whether on paper or digital, add every piece of information you use and come across while making the effort.
What worked, didn’t work – and why?
Thoughts and ideas. What you did and didn’t do. What we are not doing.
Links to other tasks.
Repetition helps our brain create multiple connections. It increases our ability to remember, to link knowledge and experiences. Taking notes after the completion of a task with a few thoughts and comments, just 2min. Helps increase the value of each effort you make – how and how well you remember it.
It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but enough to make sense when you read it in two years.
Put it all to good use
When you’ve completed efforts, you can get feedback, recognition and praise. Learn more from others – by asking all the questions that came up during your work, and teach others what you’ve learned in return.
Keep in mind. If you don’t write down what you have accomplished, you’ll soon forget – and so will everyone else.
It’s a fast moving world, and we tend to be occupied with what’s right in front of us. We mostly see ourselves and others. In the light of who they are to us right now – and the few mistakes or things they didn’t do in the past. Rather than the bigger picture and who they can become in the future.
Not because people in general are ill willed towards you or want you to fail. We’re just busy and under pressure more often than not.
Do not view your completed todo list as an ‘evidence’ list, something to hold up to defend yourself or boast about.
Instead, make it part of your story and the foundation you’re building for the future.
Remember that the main purpose of a ToDo list is to … Do.
Just as important. Celebrate all your achievements. Remind yourself of all that you did get done today, this week, month, year.
Leave the job of remembering all the delayed tasks, things you haven’t done yet, and the problems you’re struggling with to your task list.
Spend an hour every Friday afternoon going over and reflecting on everything you’ve achieved. And three hours once a month. Make it a core habit.
Don’t wait till just before the next employee evaluation. New Years morning when you try to decide on this years resolution. Or Monday morning – starting your week with the frustrated thoughts accumulated over the weekend.
It’s important you end the week feeling good about your work. It’ll give you breathing room, clarity and focus, to mentally imagine what the following week should look like. You can prioritise and make notes.
You can enjoy the weekend, feeling a little more relaxed, knowing you’re well organised. You can feel a little bit more in control – you have a plan.
And with all your tasks, notes and problems fresh in mind. Your beautiful brain might just deliver a couple of creative ideas and solutions, it’s a lot smarter than your conscious self.
Photo by Jorge Fakhouri Filho