To-Do Lists: Odds and Ends

So far this week I’ve shared some thoughts on to do lists, why they didn’t work for me, some experiments that did work for me and how I have tried to keep organised. Today’s post is a sort of collection of related points and ideas. As you can probably tell, I’m still thinking my way through a lot of things like this. Experiments to see what works for me are the key – so I have to keep experimenting and finding what is effective.

Effective and Efficient

I like Tim Ferriss‘ distinction between actions and behaviours that are effective and those that are efficient. The definitions of these – as he gives them – are totally objective, but their applications to individual circumstances could be subjective. Effective actions are actions that deliver results for a goal better than other actions that are aiming at that goal (and the award for bad paraphrasing goes to…); efficient actions are just that, they do things well – but crucially with no thought as to whether or not the actions need to be done at all.

For example, the concept of five.sentenc.es for email is efficient – be brutally short with email to avoid time-wasting. But, is it an effective use of time to do it at all? Do you need something else first in order to triage email that really needs a reply? Is email an effective use of time, and will replying to any and all emails fully – or in just five sentences – generally advance your research or goals?

I am thinking a lot about effective and efficient actions lately, and the kinds of tasks that are around these areas. Aim for effective first, then see what you can make more efficient – that’s what I tell myself at least, when I don’t get distracted.

Google Keep

I tried an experiment a few weeks ago to create a digital “nail-on-the-desk”: I had a list in Google Keep of my week’s tasks, and broke it down in to days (scheduling). Then every time I completed a task I put it right at the bottom of a master list of DONE. As the list got longer and longer, it really gave me a sense of accomplishment – I could clearly see that I was working. My only quibble might be that it would have been useful to see the complexity of the tasks (how shallow or deep they were) illustrated. Still, it helped!

If You Do One Thing

It has been interesting for me to share my thoughts and experiments this week – and I encourage you to do the same, experiment with your process for how you get things done, and then share what you did, how it worked and what happened – these processes are not just some kind of blogging meme that goes on and on, they really help. The starting point for any productivity formula though, however simple or complex, however you dress it up – you have to begin by EMPTYING YOUR HEAD! Get it on paper, or on a screen, in a list, a bingo card or covering a desk with Post Its. Once you can see the magnitude of what needs to be accomplished, you can start to make clear choices.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

PS – please take a look at my Patreon campaign for the Viva Survivors Podcast!

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