Make sure you can do your To-Dos within any given day

Well, unlooking the secrets of the brain took a lot longer than I expected.
Lewis Robinson in “Meet the Robinsons”

One important advice regarding “to do” lists is that whatever you put on it, you should be able to do it in relatively short time. About 30 minutes. Otherwise, it’s not a todo-list, it’s a reminder. There is nothing wrong with reminders, but they serve a different function.

For example, imagine a todo like “read literature about topic x” or “grade essays in course y” — that’s a reminder. It is unlikely that you can do it in a day and it will stay on your todo list at the end of the day — very discouraging.

On the other hand, suppose there’s a todo like “read Goodwin, 2006”, or “grade essay: Miller” and “grade essay: Jenkins”. That’s a todo, providing Goodwin is short enough to be read within a normal work day.

Todos, whether you keep them on paper or in OmniFocus or Things, should be something you can do. There should be a lot of movement in your todos and at the end of the day, you should have done our todos for today.

So, never put something on your todo list that you cannot do in the given day — keep a separate reminder list for that and use your todo list only for your todos.

1 Comment

  1. Really excellent stuff – very much drawn on recently. I’m afraid, as your an see from my writing, that I’m getting daffier with age. What if you had a todo list that used a captcha process to enter the data, after which much of the work could even automated (for example, request for interview letters). But that bespeaks vast ant-like activity; is it what we all are underneath? OMG–your creativity is contagious.

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