I don’t know if my age affects how I perceive the speed at which things are going right now, but I’m talking to much younger friends, and it seems to affect them as well. So, I will take my non-scientific research and dare to venture that we have more to do to keep up than we ever have.
The upside is that we have more creative outlets and more tools to expose our art or work to our tribes. Start a podcast- write a blog- launch an online something-something. But that comes with a longer and longer laundry list of to-do’s to not only start them, but keep up with them.
1- Write everything down
Now, that might be my age, and there is less ram in my inner memory card. But still, what I don’t capture out of my head, does not get done. As convinced as I am in that moment that there is no way I would forget what it is, I will. As clear as the idea seems when it occurs to me, it will be gone in the next minute and a half if I don’t jot it down. I have lost excellent ideas to a dark hole of forever often enough that I have developed a habit to grab them when it happens. I would rather read my note in 7 hours and literally have no idea what it meant than to sit with: ‘wtf was the clever title I came up with for my …fill in the blank.
If you write your items down, you are light-years ahead of those who keep it all in their head. Low tech is better than gone.
2- Gather all your to-do’s in one location
If you need to scope more than one source to decide what to do next- ok, maybe two sources, your primary system + your calendar- you are wasting time. How could you determine your next priority if you don’t have a visual of all that is on your plate? If you need to go to emails-spread-sheets-slack channels-project management platforms-phone messages to scan the land to decide what to do next, you have leaks. Time to patch them. Put them all in one place.
3- Pick one tech solution
I am not such a romantic to imagine you would drop all your apps and gizmos, but some – maybe? At least to assemble. Have all the options of ‘what-could-I-be-doing-right-now- to-move-the-most-valuable-needles’ in one location. I use Trello. I find it has enough horsepower/ cool capabilities without it being so overwhelming that it has a 5-year learning curve. The visual is elegant and has layers of complexity you don’t need to see if you don’t need to see them. By design. Loads of science out there to support the notion that clutter [visual or internal] bogs down creativity, productivity, communication, energy, focus …
4- Do the work on the front end
When you add an item to your list, decide what you really need to do. Pick a verb that represents the action. Call. Email. Incubate. Research. Order. Meditate on. By choosing a verb, you identify what needs to be done, which will save time/ energy when it is time to do it. Be creative and a bit rigorous about the verb you pick. That will make a huge difference.
5- Only list items you can do.
If your friend Julian’s birthday is coming up and you don’t have their phone number- don’t write ‘call Julian for his birthday. Write, ‘text Pedro to ask for Julian’s phone number.’ So when it’s time to do that task, you read something you can act on without thinking. It will give you more energy if you can just do it. When you think of what needs to happen, think A to B. Don’t spend any time on C, D, E, F… Good chance C, D E, F will be different as you move closer with more visibility.
6- If an item takes less than 2 minutes- do it now.
Text Pedro to get Julian’s digits. Get items off your plate if they are quick and easy. It will take more than two minutes to integrate them – and bring your brain up to speed when no longer in context. If it will take a real couple of minutes- do it now.
If you have twelve of them, that adds up to twenty-four minutes- so that is no longer two minutes. List those for later.
7- Break items down into chewable bites
If I write ‘taxes’ on my to-do list, it makes me puke a little. If I write, “find the receipt from lunch with Rich last week,” I smile, remembering how much we laughed at that lunch. I am still making progress as I needed the receipt for my expenses.
Then, I can decide what is next. When an item does not seem to get done, change the wording until it feels like aaaaaahhhh, nice breath, “I can do that.”
We look at our ‘to-do’ list all day. When we accomplish our stuff, it makes us feel good- When we procrastinate and don’t do the stuff we said we were going to do, it makes us feel awful. We try to control it. We invest tons in it. We are often disappointed in it. Reminds you of something? We are in a relationship with it. With the good and the bad. Embrace it. Accept it. Stop treating it like you are a victim of it. If you are reading this and you are older than eighteen, chances are you choose a lot of what makes it to that list. It matters what you say yes to.
Your life. Your circus. Your monkeys.