Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Efficient To-Do List Making and General Organisation Tips from the Most Organised Person I Know

Since arriving back in depressingly Autumn-y Queensland after my two weeks in paradise (ie Hawaii) I’ve found myself in what I’ve labelled a post-holiday funk, where I know I should be doing things, like hitting the gym or working on ETEP, or even just simple old doing the dishes, but am finding it really hard to find the motivation to do so. As someone who is usually so organised and dare I go so far as to say focussed, this has really thrown me off base.

So I turned to one of my besties for advice.

“They asked me if I was organised. This was obviously before they knew me.” Sarah, the gloriously organised queen of order and incredibly intelligent science wizard laughed, retelling the story of a successful job interview she had a couple years ago. “I told them, I keep a regular monthly calendar, a yearly calendar, a weekly planner and a diary.”

A diary which is filled with To-Do lists with every item crossed off. It’s the slightly-freakish kind of organisation that semi-organised with-diaries-full-of-huge-neglected-weeks-types like me drool over. Some may call it anal. I call it awesome.

She whipped out her list of tips to keep efficient lists and generally organisation.
  1. Write little lists, not big ones. The shorter your list, the easier it will be to complete it in the time span you’ve got, and the sooner you get the sweet, sweet taste of accomplishment when you cross that final chore. Having too much on your To-Do list can be intimidating subconsciously, and may lead you to procrastinate way more than is necessary.
  2. Compartmentalise – make a list of things you need to do at work, and a list of things you need to do at home, etc., this way you won’t fall into the trap of spending your time worrying about things you need to do at home when you’re at work, and vice versa. This also helps you to keep your lists shorter!
  3. Write your lists in order of time or priority. If you know you have to have a certain thing done in the morning, eg, you want to get your clothes washed in the morning so they’re on the line in the hot afternoon sun, you might put it on the very beginning of your To-do list. In the same sense, you might choose to put the item that is most important at the top of your list. If you do it first, then it’s done and you don’t have to worry so much about it, clichéd but true.
  4. Write lists for the next day on the night before. That way, when you wake up bright and early the next morning you know exactly what you’ve got to do as soon as you’re up. I also remember once reading an article that said that your subconscious mind thinks about a task while you do other things, so if you’re worried about something you should work out at the gym, or do the dishes and then once that task is finished, chances are your brain will have figured out the way to accomplish that once-so-worrying task. I’d say your brain does a similar thing here while you sleep.
  5. Date your list. I don’t mean give it flowers and take it out for a nice dinner all the while wondering if you’re about to get lucky. I mean put a time frame on your list. That way you can mentally figure out when you have to have certain tasks completed by, and it forces you to figure out when you can do them, instead of just groaning about how tough it is that you have to do them.
Sarah also discussed the importance of having a routine. She said her's was kinda out of whack this week which was interesting because I’ve been hearing this from so many of my friends lately it’s quite strange. She also showed me the stationary she uses for her weekly planner:
(Although, when I was in high school and kept a stringent weekly planner I simply drew up a table on some A4 lined paper and it worked really well.)

And gave me some tips for getting the most out of your time:

  • Run things on from other things – say you want to go to the gym, but don’t have very much time, or you don’t particularly find working out an attractive thing to spend your afternoon doing, despite knowing that you should do it to keep fit and healthy: plan your gym time for straight after you finish work (factoring in time to get there, get changed etc). This way you don’t give yourself the opportunity to weasel your way out of it by using the “but I’m already at home and I have so much to do here” excuse.
  • Block out the time you are definitely working, but don’t block out the things on your To-Do List. If you use a weekly planner or diary, highlight, draw a box around or lines through the time you’re definitely spending doing something, like work, time you’ll be at an event etc., but don’t block out any time that isn’t definite. This way you have a visual representation of all the time you have free to complete your to-do list. Planning out when you’re going to do every single thing on your to-do list can be intimidating, and if you don’t get one thing done at the specific time, chances are it won’t get done at all, or you’ll disregard the entire list and get far less done than your initially could have.

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