Productivity Coach's Corner: Master Your Lists, Manage Your Focus

Some people claim task lists are the best way to be productive. Others say they want freedom and lists don’t help. What if they’re both right?

Can a to-do list help? Some people claim task lists are the best way to be productive. Others say they want freedom and lists don’t help. What if they’re both right?

A single to-do list isn’t enough for anyone reading this article. You’re managing too much to capture and organize it on one piece of paper. But here’s an experiment for the next five days. You need three lists:

  1. Things to Think About: In my own notebook, I have a section titled “Thinking.” I draw pictures, take notes, doodle, and fill in the margins with ideas. I need to see what I think, and writing helps. Create this inventory and ask yourself, “Is it enough to have these things on my mind? Or do I need some external reminders?”

  2. Projects to Manage: This is the most important list to update at least monthly. Open your calendar and review every meeting, project, and trip you’re going to take over the next 12 weeks. Write a one-line description for each and there’s your list. Decide what to Think About and identify Next Tasks to Do.

  3. Next Tasks to Do: I categorize to-dos by “Verbs.” I have a list of calls to make, e-mails to send, drafts to begin, and documents to review. With my calendar, I review the inventories above and ask: “What will I wish I had already done by this day next week?”
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