Feb 23, 2009

The Infamous, Heinous and Nefarious 'To-Do' List!

The interesting thing about the history of the to-do list is that there doesn't seem to be any history. What you find instead is every type of list program, software, mind-mapping tool and task management solution you could ever hope for. All of which promise, to some degree or other, to help you manage your tasks quickly and easily, have access to reminders no matter where you are on earth, provide custom organization tailored to fit your needs, a way to locate your tasks - like you'd ever lose them! and to add tasks - like we need more - with the privilege of doing so wherever you go. Hmmm, does this sound like something you need or want? Everyone has them, some of us even attempt to stick with them and some unsung hero's have found ways to utilize these agendas to make their lives roll along ever more smoothly but, what do we really know about them. Did a senior Greek philosopher shriek in frustration one day in the near silence of an ancient library "I need a To-Do List!" I wonder if he got kicked out for it.

I was busily detailing some items when my hubby asked what I was doing, "Oh, just making up my usual checklist," I answered as it tumbled to my knees. Some months I plan well in advance! The question of whether or not they actually work is also something of a question mark; as is the purpose and main function they are supposed to serve, but this is up to the individual using them. Many people carry their daytimers or a journal around with them everywhere they go and these generally include an index for time management. In my journal I just use the other half of the page as a daily catalogue that acts as my schedule for the day where I check off what has been accomplished and what remains outstanding. These lists can get quite complicated and if caution is not exercised, they can overwhelm your life. The KISS principle is the easiest to follow but keeping them simple can be a challenge in itself, depending on what you have going and how many aspects there are to it. For instance...

A business man with meetings to manage, appointments to keep and projects to work on will have an altogether different arrangement than a home-schooling mom with two boys; managing the weekly kids sports or scout activities, managing a part time job or two, a household to run, groceries to buy, a budget to organize and a tracking system to pay the bills with. Did I mention scheduling appointments with the doctor, dentist and chiropractor for the family or the monthly car maintenance? Whatever shape they take is as varied and different as the individual who writes them. Not to be boring, there can be pictures and graphics, formatting on a computer and printed out or just written hurriedly and last-minutely on a scrap of paper that ends up scruffed in a heap at the bottom of your purse or coat pocket. Just one more contraption we cooked up in an attempt to keep ourselves organized, its left to the individual to the make correct usage of. Maybe that is the difficulty we face, not realizing that a to-do list is actually a formal organizational system and should be used thus to gain the results we want to attain. My own list was born out of necessity years ago and has evolved to become a rather formal document at times, depending on my needs. I have a tendency to alter it to re-fit my needs when occasion calls for it.

Currently mine includes the following items that I like to record on a monthly basis: the whole top of the page contains my current bill amounts, interest, minimum payments with dates, bill payment outlays, balances, next payment dates and are color coded. Next to that I indicate all incoming funds and savings. My basic daybook includes a numbered approach starting with 1 to 20 alongside the following: yes, no, continuation date, done, budget for, save for and items that need cash flow, beside it. Under that is my reminder menu for important dates, emails, phone calls, mail and all other correspondence that I either have to make or have received; this includes recording phone numbers, email addresses, civic addresses, the names of individuals, companies and contacts. Then I have a section for the same funds and current bills carryover for the next 31-day cycle; adding and deleting items as they change. This is basic for me though it could become more complex I need, to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible to deal with what needs to be dealt with so as to not become distracted by too many extraneous items.

Often I feel haunted by the particulars of my outline simply because some days the details seem so numerous. I have devised strategies to handle them using delegation and priority tools to determine what is most to least vital and I have assigned certain days for particular tasks. Instead of going into town whenever I need a certain item, I run an ongoing shopping roll where I jot items as they come up. Since errands usually take up an entire morning or afternoon anyway, I choose one day out of the week specifically for errands. This way I do not overuse the vehicle and burn fuel unnecessarily. It's all about curbing expenses and utilizing time adequately to gain the most out of our days. Things left on my tally at the end of one day are carried over to the next until they are completed within a week. Setting a timeframe like this helps to get low priority items done and cleared off my calendar. As much as a headache as it can occasionally be, I have come to depend on it to organize my life and accomplish my goals. I would recommend it to everyone as a time-saver scheduler, even if you have to improvise your own to make it 'fit' your life.

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