Over the years, I’ve had many people ask me what they should put on their to do lists. The thing is, this is not a simple question to answer. Each person treats their to do list differently.
Some people use their to do lists for the big things, so the smaller things never make it there – they just get done by default.
Others only put only work-related tasks on their to do lists. This is done mainly to avoid that feeling of restriction or attachment to their to do list when they’re not at work.
Some people only put the things they think of on their to do list. So things like email – from external sources – remain in the email program for storage and execution there.
So when I am asked that question, I normally try to figure out what someone puts on their to do list right now.
Still, the answer always winds up being the same.
Put everything – every single task – on your to do list.
Now let me be clear: some tasks can be done before they make it to the larger to do list. But I still capture all items on paper, instead of trying to keep track of them in my head.
Why? Because my head is a terrible long-term storage device.
I get every task out of my head. Where it goes is dependent on what it is. Ideas go to Evernote and they get reviewed whenever I go into Evernote Mode. And how do I know what to look for when I go into Evernote Mode? I look at my to do list.
I don’t put things like Garbage Day or Recycling Day on my calendar. Why? Because I don’t make dates with either of those things. My wife does put them on the calendar, and because of that, I can see when the pickup dates are. Then I put them where it serves me better: on my to do list.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what app or tool you use for your to do list. It’s the methodology that matters. And it matters that you use that methodology consistently, just like it matters that you capture consistently.
When you capture everything, you regret nothing.
I’m an edge case for sure, but I have super handy things in my to do list that repeat annually like “Put up holiday decorations” and “Research gift ideas for anniversary.” By doing this, I never need to think about remembering these things. I just need to do them when they show up. I can use that energy saved to do those things – and a host of other things – better.
The right level of awareness leads to taking the right action.
Your brain can’t really decide what truly matters at the moment that task or idea comes to mind. It can only do that later, when you have time to process the events. Give your brain a break.
So the next time you think of something that could go on your to do list, think twice. Because if you’re thinking that it could, then it should.
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