For years I’ve written “to do” lists for many different projects and, for the most part, they have helped to keep me on the straight and narrow while making progress on personal tasks and goals. When I started using email and spreadsheets to manage those lists things got easier and more complicated at the same time. There is a certain satisfaction with drawing a line through a completed task on a paper-based “to do” list but email and spreadsheet lists offer too many additional ways of setting priorities on each task, identifying prerequisite tasks, color-coding each item to indicate different granularities of priority etc.
When everything is a priority
Things got out of hand recently with my daily “to do” list that I manage in email; I had so many items in bold red text, with associated exclamation marks to indicate priority, that it became unusable. Everything was a priority and as a result it became difficult to identify which task I needed to focus on at any time. So I revised the list and selected several items that I felt confident I could accomplish in an evening. With those done I can drop them from the list and identify the next batch of tasks that need to be tackled and completed. And in a few days I will have cleared the backlog and will be back on track.
“To do” lists are wonderful tools, but when you need a list to manage your “to do” lists then you know that you’re in trouble. No-one’s life should be that complicated, especially mine.