Update to my Todo list – now more productive!

I would not be writing this blog post you are reading if I had not fixed my todo list the other day. I am currently writing this during my “personal project” time. I have managed to not only get myself more organized and be more productive, but I have found a flaw and now I’m telling you about it.

Definining what I am supposed to be working on each day has been awesome. Yes, it is basically micromanaging myself and my time. But for me it works. It might not work for you. That’s ok, but it makes you weird and you should know that about yourself.

The other day, I met with a couple folks in Boulder at a new coworking office. Our conversation turned to “It’s hard to get everything done each day” and discussions about office hours – essentially making specific time during the week or month that is open to “whomever”. I realized that I needed to take my todo list and apply this sort of model to my daily tasks. Instead of doing the list from start to finish and hoping I get it done, I realized I needed time limitations. So, now my list looks more like this:

Every Day

  • 5 mins – Straighten up the desk, make coffee, and feed the fish
  • 5 mins – Look and see if any Birthdays are coming up, make cards and send them
  • 15 mins – Read 2 articles in Evernote
  • 30 mins – Personal Project Time
  • 5 mins – Look for small items on Personal list that can be done in 5min or less
  • 5 mins – EmpireAvenue spending
  • 15 mins – If something for meetups/events get it done
  • 5 mins – Check Facebook/Twitter
  • 5 mins – Post something to work Twitter with #li
  • Do Daily List
    • Monday
      • 60 mins – monday morning meeting
      • 5 mins – get Evernote ready for phone calls
    • Tuesday …

There are a couple of big changes to my todo list structure:

  1. I removed the “time of day” portion of the list. All of the task categories are on the same list.
  2. I integrated my daily list into a slot that I set aside for “daily list time”
  3. I added amounts of time that it should take to complete each item.
  4. I started using an app on my ipad called 30/30. It is based on the Pomodoro technique for managing your time, but is more flexible than having only 30min increments of time. I entered all of my daily categories into this app in order with the amounts of time. The app beeps at me when it’s time to switch. I am creating a pavolovian response in myself to the sound of this timer.
  5. The last big thing I changed was that I now “loop” my todo list, starting off where I stopped the day before. This means that the items at the bottom of my list don’t get skipped. They get priority. Also, this means that my attentions get focused on different things at the start of each day which is really good for my short attention span.

I originally had goals at the bottom of my list, I still do but they were there originally too (direct rip off of a Mitch Hedberg joke). One of my goals is Inboz Zero. This is a fantastic concept that I could spend my whole waking life trying to accomplish. I was sent Inbox Zero For Life yesterday. This article is minimalist (unlike me) and awesome (just like me). I immediately started using the keyboard shortcuts in gmail and moving through my inbox in this fashion.  I had never used the shortcuts before because I didn’t realize they were so intuitive and useful.  The slight modification I made for this process is that some of my emails get labels before I star them and archive them. This allows me, during my [customer, candidate, coworkers] email time in the day, to focus on those emails specifically.

Let me just say, I get distracted easily and having things so regimented and so defined has helped me quite a bit. I plan on keeping this schedule and process in place for a while to see how it helps me get through my days. So far, I have been able to focus on all of the individual things I need to focus on, get more done, and feel way better about how I left my day.




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  • mike kincaid

    I like how you use the time limits and move on to the next thing. That ensures you address every part of your business. Good stuff!

  • http://twitter.com/msmir Miriam Slozberg

    Wow I need to get organized! This is great! Good job.

  • Chris K

    I just rip out the Internet from the wall and get writing. At least that’s what I’d like to do. But with so much research necessary on the Internet, I find myself so easily distracted.
    Do you have a post about making the most of Evernote? I just began using it and it seems effective, but I don’t know much about its capabilities.

    • http://mkbernier.com Matt Bernier

      I’d be happy to do that! What sorts of things are you looking for? I could just write about how I use it and if you have questions, I can answer them…

    • http://mkbernier.com Matt Bernier

      How I use Evernote to stay organized, written just now and just because you asked! http://mkbernier.com/2013/01/26/how-i-use-evernote-to-stay-organized/

  • SterlingDee

    5 minutes for Empire Ave spending!? that’s quick…I could never stick to a todo list like this.

    • http://mkbernier.com Matt Bernier

      I use dr-dittrich.de/eav/eav.pl which makes it SUPER easy to choose who I want to spend eaves on. It’s free!!

  • http://twitter.com/haroldlgardner Harold Gardner

    I would never get anything done without my 2-do list.

  • http://twitter.com/ronald78910 Ron

    Good info, thanks for the aritcle!

  • http://xeeme.com/mithuhassan Mithu Hassan

    Very informative !!!

  • dougwo

    I have always found it difficult to maintain this kind fo schedule. Glad it works for you!

  • http://twitter.com/DonCarlitos Charlie McHenry

    The perpetual challenge of time management.

  • http://twitter.com/Taxtreats Vipul Jasani

    Great info, thank you!

  • J.R. Wirshing

    Not sure that I could function on anything smaller than 15 minute chunks, but I like the concept.

    • http://mkbernier.com Matt Bernier

      I thought so too, the beeping noise helps me switch. Also, I can’t spend 30 minutes on some of those tasks. I suggest categorizing your 5 minute tasks and putting 5 or 6 of them together into a 30 minute block. That might help!

  • Connel Coetzee

    Thanks for the info its really useful and will try to put it too good use! 😉

  • http://xeeme.com/mithuhassan Mithu Hassan

    Thanks to share !!! Very cool !!

  • K. Doug Allen

    Big fan of Evernote – huge organizing helper!

    • http://mkbernier.com Matt Bernier

      It has changed how I do everything.

  • http://twitter.com/redautumnwind Red autumn wind

    wishing you much success in your new schedule hope it is working for you

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.sider.3 Jim Sider

    Great article thanks for the info!

  • http://www.facebook.com/strategyplanone Ty Col

    Organized and productive… linked together … great article

  • http://twitter.com/visualriot visualriot

    Thanks Matt – the problem I have is Multiple to do lists – :-) I use a CRM program for the mac (Daylite) and try to keep tasks at 50 mins and then 10 min breaks – I am going to hunt for that app and see if it works better in 30 min blocks

    • http://mkbernier.com Matt Bernier

      Yeah, so my multiple todo lists are all on the same note in Evernote. This helps significantly because I don’t have to go hunting for things.
      My suggestion would be to make a note in Evernote (or your CRM) and link to the individual todo lists from your “daily” list. If your todo lists shift, you can just change the links easily!