I’ve lived my life with a daily todo list for over 10 years.
In fact, I put a video together to help you get started with Things for managing your todo list.
I get a small dopamine hit whenever I check an item off my list. I have built into my muscle memory the keyboard shortcuts to record anything anyone mentions to me that I’ll need to action in the future.
But every day I still finish with items unchecked. It gets me down and it stresses me out.
Earlier this week, several people sent me this post on how a CEO manages their time and it made me question my obsessive todo list usage. Is it really helping me? Is it contributing to me feeling down? Is it actually holding me back from focusing my time on what I need to do?
For the last few days I experimented with deliberately blocking my time on my calendar for the important work I needed to focus on. I have dabbled with this approach in the past but kept one foot in the “todo list” camp and it didn’t stick.
What I found from a few days last week was eye-opening:
- I was more conscious of the tasks I put into my calendar (everyone on the team can see my calendar if they want to view it)
- I blocked time to focus – and this time was protected from meetings. People couldn’t book / invite me to anything that clashed.
- It drove my awareness of how much time I need to spend on certain important projects – time I wasn’t dedicating before.
- It made me realise I go into every day, and every week, with an overly optimistic assessment of what I can achieve, that ultimately leaves me feeling like I haven’t achieved enough by the end.
I intend to keep this approach up. I am not ready to drop my usage of Things yet – especially not for my personal life todos.
I’m interested to find out after another few weeks of using my calendar more deliberately if I can learn about the following:
- How much important work can I do? Not just the urgent work.
- Can I get better at communicating with others around me what I can / cannot achieve by certain dates?
- Can I feel better at the end of each day knowing I've focused my time in the right places, and achieved more with my time?
The clearer I can be with myself, the clearer I can be with everyone around me, and the more I can help people achieve their own tasks and projects.
Let’s find out!
Update: in episode 10 of Lost and Founder I share what I've learnt from using my calendar instead of a todo list over the 3-4 weeks since writing this post. TL;DR: it's helping.