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Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Get Things Done When You Hate To-Do Lists...Like I Do

Shock of shocks, I hate to-do lists. Well, I hate making them for myself. They're like a noose around my neck. I don't recommend making them to others, really. In the time that you have to take to write out the entire list, you probably would've accomplished at least one of the items on it instead. The lists get lost easily. Life is too changeable, as are goals, for someone like me. I have a thing about putting pen to paper- I never like to put down anything with a checkbox beside it that I can't guarantee I'll complete! Call me crazy, but I possess that quirk. I never write down to-do lists, but I always get done what I need to. There's a workaround for this quandary, I promise. If you love making to-do lists & they help you get loads of things done, more power to you. Just ignore this post. But if you're like me, read on.

Instead, I utilize my Google Calendar like it's going out of style. Whenever I think of something important, on it goes to the calendar immediately. From there, I make sure that it's sent to my Gmail account at the time that I want it come to me. Then the reminder can sit in my Inbox whenever it arrives & be a gentle breeze telling me something still needs to get done. I can delete it easily, once it's accomplished or is no longer relevant. I'm not wasting paper this way. I'm not losing any list, be it electronic or on paper. Actual appointments (not just things I'd like to get around to doing at home) go on my paper calendar, too, just to be clear. I'm still writing out my goals, it's just getting done electronically & in a time-relevant format. Since I check my email a billion times a day, it's very hard for me to overlook these reminders, too. I always found it very easy to "forget" to look at my to-do list, so carefully made out & then so carelessly disregarded. Google calendar is also nice because I can color-code it. When I bring up my weekly schedule, at a glance I know what I'll be getting into that week to come. I use the color red for tasks related to my household move (for now) or for holiday to-do's (when in season); orange for health-related tasks (doctor's appointments, medication refills, etc.); yellow for family birthdays & similar events; green for bill-paying & other finance-related matters; turquoise for fun stuff, like shopping, pampering time, dates or getting a haircut; true blue for weekly tasks such as cleaning the house; purple for daily reminders like my Nighttime Routine & grey for quarterly/monthly tasks such as cleaning the windows. You do not have to follow my system, but the color-coding instantly signals to my brain what type of involvement will be needed before I even read the text. I find this works for me loads better than a scattered to-do list, in any format I'd ever tried before. Fifty dollar day planners couldn't even get me that organized & productive. I used to blame myself, but now I know better. The Google calendar also enables me to block out the period of time required for the task, or the entire day if applicable. I believe that applying the actual time that a task will take & what hour I need to get it done makes the big difference. To-do lists can be too vague in that respect. Because ALL of this information goes to my email account, I'll be reminded of what I need to do even if I somehow forget to view my calendar that day.

I downloaded the Google toolbar, then put the little buttons up for my email & calendar. I need all of the help I can get to remember stuff, and I've got my bookmarked Internet pages right at my fingertips that way, too. With other specific icons chosen, I gained the ability to post things directly to Facebook, Twitter & this blog. This further simplified my life & helped me get things done a little bit faster/smarter as I learned to use them. Google Documents is another option available, and I've slowly been switching these documents over from my Word program so that those are also uploaded for good. I do a lot of writing, and not just for this blog. Being able to see my master goal list (yes, I do still have that) in a heartbeat is terrific. It keeps me focused on what matters. Each day I take one baby step further towards ultimate dreams that I have for myself through this system. I hope that it will work for you, should you decide to try it. It's certainly made me more productive. I'm not making any kind of official paid endorsement (if only that were true...) I discovered all of this through trial-and-error. Again, it's not you that has an issue 99% of the time, if you're not getting done what you want to. It's the system that you've set up- technical errors, in other words. Keep experimenting until you find what keeps you productive, organized & happy.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,
Liz

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