Call me an artifact from the days of yore, but I love, love, love paper to-do lists. While working from home, I’ve tried calendars on my desktop, task-tracking on my iPhone and even setting up somewhat harsh-sounding alerts on my iPad. While I recognized the value in these technological helpers, I ultimately found that nothing beat a page on my basic yellow legal-pad, covered with bullet points, blocky writing and brown rings from the bottom of my coffee mug. Here’s how I optimized my paper task lists and started really getting things done.
However, once I began writing my to-do lists the night before, I could see The Big Picture. I could mentally prepare myself for what had to be done. I could shut my eyes, drift off and know that everything I had to do the next day was contained on a piece of paper. All I needed to do was run through it, cross off each task, and put the leftovers on the new list, and this made a huge difference in how I tackled my duties and how much I got done every single day.
So my solution was to write tasks in blocky caps. It took a bit of discipline, but I could read exactly what I put down, instead of wondering why I wrote “bring dog to pizza” instead of “finish blog post on the burgeoning relationship between social media and the pygmy goat industry.”
After the ego-busting experience of making it through a tiny fraction of each list every day, I had a “Come to Jesus” with myself about what I could honestly finish within a span of 10 or 12 hours. This meant accepting that I was a human being with normal limitations, not a super-computer, a robot, or a professional World of Warcraft Relic Farmer. That in itself removed a lot of pressure associated with my to-do lists, and helped me recognize that I needed to see my task sheets as partially complete rather than almost completely unfinished.
When I streamlined and perfected my task-taking skills, I became calmer, more organized, and a better remote worker. For those of you who live and die by technology and mobile devices – good on you – but I’ll stick with my bullet points, ball-point pen and old-school paper notebook.
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