to-do guidelines

July 31, 2006

Since I’ve been on the topic of getting rid of clutter and getting things done, here is a list of to-do guidelines I scratched out a year or so ago to transfer to my computer. Ironically, I found it in a pile on my desk. 🙂 Most of these had some form of their origin in Getting Things Done, by David Allen.

  • Don’t put broad general items on your to-do list. If something can’t be “completed” then it isn’t a to-do…it’s a project. (see below)
  • Everything on your list should be a single task that can be completed and checked off. This can be hard to do sometimes, but break the larger projects down into single tasks. Don’t put down “Buy gas for mower and cut grass”. Separate it into two tasks.
  • Create a projects category for bigger projects without a due date. This breaks the rules above, but it’s designed to help you follow them. I have a project category for which sits at the bottom of my task list. In the notes section for each project, I breakdown the tasks for that project and move them into the main todo list as necessary. Because “Projects” is the bottom category on my task list, I only see it when I need to manage it.
  • Store information along with where you will need it. If you get an email with directions to an appointment, cut and paste that info in the notes section on your calendar. If you get an email with instructions on something you need to do, paste it in the notes in your task program.
  • Use start dates on tasks so you don’t have to see them until they are relevant. I filter all my tasks in Outlook so that I don’t see something with a future start date.
  • Don’t let anything go overdue! Sometimes you don’t get things done by the due date you assigned yourself, but change the due dates to current dates. Don’t fill your task list with a bunch of red overdue items or your due dates won’t be meaningful anymore.

Now I can finally throw away this paper with scribbled task list notes on it.

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