by Harry Wray
Outsourcing to devices to organise our work and personal data has become part of how we manage our lives. It means we’re all project managers sifting through what’s relevant, needed and most urgent. How do we make sure we still get things done that aren’t urgent at all? We all have our personal systems to get things done – but what tools do we use to help us, what processes do we follow and how do we adapt these to suit our own ways of working?
The to-do list is perhaps the most personal of these processes, developed to suit how we work, and refined over time to the nature of what we do. To do is to plan; to plan is an art.
I did some research into the to-do list at work: what works for who, and why. Here are some highlights.
A tried and tested method – it’s hard to beat the efficacy of a simple post-it.
You’ve no doubt heard this term being thrown around between friends or colleagues. Defined as the ‘analogue system for the digital age’.
This method is especially effective for those who are surgically attached to their laptops.
A personal, private method for organising your tasks.
A method of tracking things that’s great for compartmentalising, and for projects with lots of moving parts.
Apps like Any.do have gamified the to-do list method, making the process all the more satisfactory.
This method combines personal and work to-dos, clearly identifying where they belong.
For me, there’s simple comfort in a piece of paper telling me what to do. At work, pen on paper means it’s there, all the time, not going away until it’s either done or no longer relevant. It helps me to feel pressure to get through the most urgent things, to delegate, plan my day or even just put the accelerator on. But outside of work, I’m tied to Wunderlist app on my iPhone. It’s always with me; I often add jobs on the move and I can make multiple types of lists (things I wish James Dyson would reinvent, places I want to travel, top 5 anything etc.). Then there’s the motivation hack of clicking a checkbox and hearing the chime that means ‘getting shit done!’.
For project managers, sophisticated plans and elaborate lists are a way of life. But for the rest of us, our to-do lists can be as simple or as elaborate as we choose. Whatever gets the job done.