To-Do Lists: Pseudo-Scheduling

In yesterday’s post I introduced a few little experiments that I had tried as a means to hack the to do list: putting tasks on separate pieces of paper, using dice as a means to prioritise and also using a nail stuck to my desk with blu-tack! These have all worked well for me at different times, I use them in rotation; some weeks I have a gut feeling that dice will be more helpful than the spike – I guess I like variety in my task organising.

Another piece of the puzzle

All of these things help me with the day-to-day, but it can be a bit of a chore to sit down every day and write anew my to do list scraps. And while it helps me organise on a particular day, it can also still mean that I reach the end of the week and find that not everything I wanted to achieve has even been considered. This thought helped me to start looking ahead – not in the long term, but on a weekly basis.

In particular, I’ve become very happy with using Sunday evenings as the time to look ahead. My daughter is in bed, the dishes are done, Downton Abbey (when it is on) is humming away in the background, and I can sit down with a new page in my pad and empty my head of everything that needs to get done in the coming week. I have a fairly well-organised list of ongoing projects, so I use that to help me get down specific tasks that need doing. Instead of “blogging” (the great ongoing project!) I have dates, themes, and a couple of specific milestones – draft, scheduled, Buffered – to make sure that everything is done. After recent discoveries of WordPress link-breaking, I’ll be adding a new step of link-check in between draft and scheduled now too!

But Sunday evening is a great time to do that initial look ahead – and also plan for what days of the week could work best for certain tasks. I know that every Monday is my day to look after my daughter; so the only work I schedule for Monday is more thinking and planning (during naps and Balamory). I look to see what workshop delivery commitments I have, or any other items on my calendar. This begins to help me be realistic about my time and goals.

Line!…House!

Another idea I had some time ago was to create bingo cards of my daily tasks. I don’t exactly know WHY I thought it would be a good idea; I think something about the game-like appearance of it sparked my interest. I took a 3 inch by 5 inch record card, and divided it up into 15 squares, writing a task in each square. As each task was done I would colour over the square with a highlighter, and it provided a very visual way of seeing what was done, what needed to be done and so on. It’s more of a work-in-progress concept at the moment (I’ll add a picture next time I do it), I think it could be useful for people who are incentive driven, especially if certain kinds of tasks are placed in certain squares, or if there are kinds of rewards for a row, column or house.

Creating this at the end of a day for the next day’s tasks is kind of cool though. In particular, if you can agree to it, you are effectively prioritising that you will only do a certain amount of work: 15 squares = 15 tasks. You could have a bigger card, or a separate sheet of things that come up – or you could say “I aim to do all of this and nothing else, I’m going to be focused.” And if you were extra adventurous you could sit down on a Sunday evening and create one of these for every day in the week ahead.

Could you do it? I think that might be quite tough – but maybe, in the spirit or experimentation and tweaking one’s productivity, it might be worth a go!

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

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