Monday, January 18, 2010

The Value of To-Do Lists

I love lists. I love them so much that I have lists of my lists. I have lists in several different spots. The two most important things that lists do for me are to keep me on track and to give me satisfaction when I can cross something off of one.

Without a list, I flounder through the day. I can't remember which of my editing deadlines comes first. I forget an important writing deadline. I even forget to blog! I'm unlikely to forget to make dinner with 3 other people asking me "What's for dinner?" and "When is dinner? I'm starving!" although it has been known to happen. I forget that I needed to spend time rehearsing music for upcoming events. I'm unlikely to forget to take a shower or to do school with my children, so those things don't usually make it onto a list.

My lists focus on things that I need to work on and am likely to forget. If a particular item has a specific due date, I note that. If there's no set due date, but it's something that needs attention, I note it on my list to work on when I have time. The list gives me a framework of items that need my attention while the kids work on their schoolwork independently. I use my BlackBerry to add things to my list whenever and wherever I think of them, since I don't always have a pen and paper handy. Then, I transfer things to the appropriate list later. The list helps me to focus on the next thing that's due. Occasionally, the list overwhelms me, but that's a different topic!

The next best thing about lists is the satisfaction of crossing items off! This is especially helpful for days (or weeks!) when I feel like I haven't accomplished anything. I can look back at the list and see things crossed off and know that I did, in fact, complete important things. One of my lists is on my BlackBerry, so while I don't use a physical pen or marker to cross off the completed items, it will put a cute, little, green check mark next to items I've finished. That is equally satisfying :-).

The list pictured here is on a small write on/wipe off board that I keep on my desk. I use it to detail all of the writing and editing projects I have coming due. I put specific due dates where applicable and use the list to prioritize my time to make sure that everything gets completed in a timely manner. Sometimes I work until I finish a whole project, sometimes I figure out how much I have to do of one project each day for a certain number of days. Sometimes I just work while I have inspiration for something, then move onto something else.

Q4U: How many to-do lists do you have? What is your favorite thing about utilizing a to-do list?