I needed to think about why I wasn’t using my filofax so much and what might make me start again and realised one of my main issues was with To-Do lists – I either have everything in front of me and then get annoyed if I have to rewrite anything not done, into the next week pages or, I realise I won’t get it all done and put it on a separate list that I then don’t look at (because it’s not in front of me). At this time of the year, my to-do lists can also terrify me with their colossus-like dimensions!
I have three kinds of tasks to do:
- things that are advancing projects (‘next actions’)
- things that are known about well in advance, that need to be done at particular times but which are not linked to a project (birthdays, car-insurance renewal, meter readings and so on)
- things that are neither of the above but are things that need to be done (usually sooner rather than later)
The problems arise like this:
Most of my projects seem to be big projects and even breaking them down into smaller things to manage them better, the time for them is elastic. For example, I want to finish the first draft of book 6 before I go away on holiday, but I don’t quite know how many scenes I still need to write. I have a rough idea, but not an absolute nailed down one. Even if I did know that I had exactly 8 more scenes to write, some days it flows well and some days it just doesn’t. As a consequence, a ‘next action’ can sit on my to-do list for days or even weeks. Do I have them on a separate Post-It note and keep moving them from week to week? That feels like failure. Do I keep them on a separate list and refer to it when I have time? That would then suffer from the “it isn’t in front of me so it doesn’t exist” issue I have where, despite quite a lot of education, I seem almost totally unable to turn a page to look at what is behind it.
Category 2 is okay as long as I look at my planner – these are all transcribed onto ‘do this week’ sheets and if I look at those sheets, I do them. And there’s the rub! IF I look at them. Often I don’t.
Category 3 can be an ever-increasing list of ‘stuff’ which can end up swamping the important things. I need to do a brain-dump into a to-do list to clear my head sometimes, but there is then a danger that the list turns scary!
I haven’t cracked any of these problems completely, really. What I have done is to have one giant to-do sheet at the very front of my planner, rather than on the weekly pages (since I don’t really have many appointments at the moment). Everything is going on it. To get around the “it isn’t in front of me so it doesn’t exist” issue, I have added “next-actions” on my to-do list in bold (so I see something that might prompt me to turn to the page behind which lists the next actions!), added the weekly tasks to the to-do list from the weekly sheets (which I have given up on) and added the ever-increasing small to-do things as and when they occur. The hope is that I can see it all (or at least see a prompt to turn the page and look at it, oh over-educated one) and can try and limit how many ‘mosquito tasks’ get added to the list.
I have ‘next actions’ in black at the top, then weekly things in blue, then ‘other stuff’ in pencil underneath. Because there is now a danger of me not actually looking at the diary pages, I also have added any appointments I have for the week to the bottom of the list, in red.
At the bottom of the page (please don’t laugh) I have a reminder to turn over and look at the next page/reverse of the to-do list so that, although I have run out of space, there may still be things lurking on the other side of the page that I must get on with. Yes, I have a first class honours degree and a PhD and I need a reminder to turn the page. I know my limitations!!
On the next page, I have the next-actions for my current projects (colour-coded).
I’m really hoping that this set-up with the to-do at the front, will keep me organised! I’ll let you know!