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Productivity

Nailing the to-do list

So what works when it comes to handling actions? In this piece, I delve into the to-do list as my system was all over the place.

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All the time soloists spend on their own, thinking and planning turns out to be a breeding ground for idiosyncrasies. Yet none so curious as the habit of making a to-do list, just to cross it off.

I know this because a few months ago, I asked Flying Solo’s forumites how they mastered the to-do list. I was new at Flying Solo and was secretly trying to work out exactly how I was going to balance the needs of my then six-month old baby and this brand new role.

My three notepads

In the fit of chaos that had become my life, notepads sprung up everywhere. Actually, there are three: one on the kitchen bench, another next to my bed and a third that lives in the pocket of my laptop bag.

The first notepad is an inventory of domestic items, like ‘buy milk’ and ‘blend baby food’. The second is for work-related items, like ‘Facebook posts’, and ‘send contributor form’, etc.  While the third notepad has been a kind of walking journal, its contents ranging from the sage and therapeutic:  ‘Remember your priorities and let them guide you’ – to the verging on rant/ brain dump: ‘If I could just get five minutes to myself to make a !&&%^ list’

"I began to wonder: was it normal to be setting out everything in my mind in three different places?"

Reflecting one day I began to wonder if this process was a little cumbersome; was it normal to be setting out everything in my mind in three different places? Should I have a better system? Maybe an App? How do other people manage it?

All the different ways we track our days

As it turns out, I was not alone. The forum post came alive with busy soloists sharing their favourite way of tracking what needs to be done.

Member Arrowise was in favour of Google Tasks which he loves for its ability to assign tasks to others, as well as sync with your mobile.  PMullen rates Trello, again primarily for how easily it integrates to other programs; while Elissa Doxey and Rowan @ Garden Larder, prefer bullet journals for their adaptability.

Yet for all the championing of ultra sleek electronic programs, there was also an evident love for going ‘old school’: “I use either a diary or some scrap paper and list what I need to do or get done,” said Burgo.

“Not much order to my to-do lists, I just get it all down and work through it as I can. The main thing is to get it written (or typed) down somewhere so you don’t forget it,” wrote Denielle Lee.

So when do we get to the bit about crossing things off?

As the law of attraction dictates, once I got thinking about making lists, I started noticing them everywhere. Which explains why I pounced on Gretchin Rubin’s mention of the ‘Ta-Da’ list on a recent episode of her Happier podcast.

The ‘Ta Da’ list is a gift to list lover’s everywhere because it does away with the pesky idea that you  actually have to get something done, in order to write it. It’s the opposite of the to-do list, an inventory of everything you ‘have’ achieved, rather than what you ‘need’ to get done

For example, my ‘Ta-Da’ list for today says I have made it to work, planned dinner and drank two litres of water in between my coffee. Whereas my to-do list is much longer and lacks the instant gratification and is innately less satisfying, because I am yet to do anything on it 🙂

Unless of course, I’m like Matthew White, Peter Crocker and Lucinda Lions, three soloists who admitted they actually write to-do lists just to cross them off!”

‘To-Do’ or ‘Ta-Da’: what would you prefer to be writing today? 

Lucy Kippist

is an experienced Australian editor with experience in writing, podcasting radio and television, with previous senior editorial roles at News Corp news.com.au, Kidspot and Kinderling Kids Radio. In her current role as editor of Flying Solo, Australia's #1 website for solo business owners she is pursuing her passion for women in the small business space. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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