Thursday, 30 May 2013

To-Do lists with a Twist

Image Microsoft
I like To-Do lists, well any kind of list, really. They help me manage my day and get things a little under control. But one very simple way you can enhance your To-Do list is to put beside each item the approximate amount of time it will take to complete the task. Here’s a snippet of a recent list, for example:
                Write Blog                                        20 mins
                Send card to Pam                              5 mins
                Mow lawn                                         30 mins
                Finish proof-reading feature               20 mins
                Continue edits on novel                     4 days
                Collect library book                           30 mins

By adding the likely duration, you’re adding a layer of manageability. I can see, for example, that the novel isn’t going to get finished today – but everything else is do-able. Furthermore, adding timings can make a long list far less scary when, for example, you see that half the tasks will take less than twenty minutes. 
  • Highlight or put rings around tasks that must be done today. 
  • You can even add provisional ideas for when tasks could be slotted in:
        'Send card to Pam = 5 mins (start when boiling kettle for morning coffee)'

Set the Stage

I don’t know if other people do this – but it works for me. I used it this morning to get a simple task done that could have hung over me all day. My husband has someone coming this evening and I noticed the carpet in the sitting room was in a state. ‘Vacuum sitting room’ gets added to my list. How long will it take? Only about 5 minutes. But the idea of dragging the vacuum out from under the stairs and plugging it in makes me put it off.  Then it becomes a little cloud on my shoulder. I can have several clouds building up during the day if I’m not careful.
Here’s what I do.
Image Microsoft
I get the vacuum cleaner out and plug it in. Full stop. I don’t do the vacuuming, I simply get it ready, so it’s far easier to do when I do get around to it later. Later this morning, I came across it when I came down for the mail and found myself just getting on with the job, because it seemed so easy! 

The same might apply to any other job requiring an appliance: 
  • Get the car on the drive, put a bucket, sponge and soap ready for washing it later. 
  • Get the mixer out, the scales, set the recipe book to the right page, all the required bowls, utensils and dried ingredients ready for the baking you want to do. 
  • Gather together the paint tins, brushes, cloths, buckets, newspaper, dust sheets, ladders etc for the decorating job you’ve got in mind. 
This magically makes the tasks far easier, because by doing most of the preparation in one self-contained job, you’ve sliced off half of the ‘drag factor’. Try it and email or tweet me to let me know how you got on!