Over the years of working in pressure-cooker situations like as a newspaper editor with daily deadlines, I quickly learned the value of a simple to-do list.
I’m writing this post because I want to share this with our team at iThemes, but also to those outside of our circle. This is not rocket science. It’s things you’ve heard over and over about simple task management …
BUT … if you don’t have a to-do list going … today is the day to GET ONE.
Some more background to the post: I exhaust our team sometimes because I’ll throw something onto their plate, thinking in my mind that they’ll put it on their own super, simple, silly stupid to-do list and get to it when they can. But I think many times they feel their load getting heavier and heavier when in fact, I am trusting them to prioritize it themselves (unless I’ve given them my preference).
Anyway, during the course of a day, I’ll put a ton of tasks on my own list, prioritizing them according to relevance and temperature of the heat coming off the fire they might represent (aka by priority).
So when it comes to getting tasks done, I’m a juggler and a firefighter. I know it’s not realistic to think everyone operates the way I do, but I do have the same expectations my boss in college did after she riped me left, right, up and down for asking too many questions about projects.
She told me to … Be Self Directed. Manage Your Own Time. And Take Initiative.
I took it and ran with it … and honestly, it’s been freeing to me.
If she had allowed me to ask her every stupid question about the projects she entrusted me with, they and I would have toiled in mediocrity. Instead, I took her words to heart and took the initiative, owned those projects, and got invaluable experience, exposure and opportunities out of my time there.
Wow, what a tangent to get to my thoughts about simple to-do lists!
OK, here are my thoughts on how I juggle all the various tasks I have going on in any given day…
- Keep it simple – I use a text editor (TextEdit on the Mac; Notepad on the PC) and put all my important tasks there, plus important information (like copy and paste stuff I do all the time, links to important sites, and yes, even our office’s mailing address). I don’t use fancy but cool online software for this. It’s not pretty. It’s just simple text in a simple window.
- Shuffle tasks according to priority – I record each task I need to do (or am assigned) and reorder them on my list according to priority as I go throughout the day. Shuffling them helps me knock off tasks easier. Often, I’ll do the ones I can erase fast.
- Put quick descriptions next to them – I keep it brief, but if I might forget the context of the to-do item later, I remind myself what it’s about in short fashion; sometimes I’ll even put quick indents underneath one main item to separate out sub-tasks.
- Record Wish List tasks below priority ones – There are always long-term projects that will take WAY too much time to do and frankly, aren’t a priority. I have my long-term wish list segregated from my “on fire” tasks. Most of them won’t ever get done. In fact today I was looking at them and loathing them … procrastination is good sometimes. They are at the bottom for a reason.
There you go. Many of you will violently disagree with my method. Good for you, I want to hear from you!
But everyone’s different, and I do know that many people don’t even have a list … so start somewhere simple and refine it later.