This is Life Contained newcomer, Holly McDermott’s first post. As you take in her hierarchical process for staying organized, you’ll understand why we hired her.
I can envision the Hawaiian vacation I’d be off to if I had a nickel for every time someone said, “I just don’t know how you get it all done!” Although I certainly never have ALL my desired tasks done, I have found a peaceful rhythm for completing my important action items using these steps–an adaptation of Steven Covey’s priorities teachings:
1. Select a home base and consolidate. Set aside at least an hour to complete this process. Whether you prefer a paper planner, a draft email, a word processing/spreadsheet document, or another variation, pick one. Within this single location, create a laundry list with all of your action items. (I currently keep a To Do list in the native Notes app on my phone.)
2. Sort by importance. Following your initial gut instinct, quickly label all tasks as follows:
A – Important and Urgent
B – Important, but Not Urgent
C – Less or Not Important
3. Conduct initial sort and add in the white space. Sort your list by the letter of importance (A, B, C). Leave several blank lines between the A and B and C tasks. This will allow for adding new items and to create the visual separation from the most crucial actions and all others.
4. Prioritize your A Tasks. Review the items on your A list and for any tasks that will take longer than can be completed in one sitting, pull out the first step and add this specific step to that task’s line.
For example, if I have a task to “write a new platform business case,” then I would change this to “write new platform business case – research option 1.”
Then, scan through your A list items and rank them in order of importance starting with number 1 as the most important. Your tasks are now further labeled, A1, A2, A3, etc. For example, a task list may read…
A1 Respond to customer emails received in last 24 hours
A2 Set and communicate venue for April training classes
A3 Order supplies for next week’s training class
5. Work the list, top down! Your list is now organized by order of importance. Begin at the top and work your way down the list. After items are completed, delete (or strikethrough on paper). If new tasks are needed, add them in the section of the ABC letter that represents their importance. If inserting an A task, also add a rank (perhaps you now have tasks ranked A2i. and A2ii.). For B and C tasks, simply drop onto the list in the corresponding section. If A task are completed, then begin the B tasks, and if B tasks are completed, move onto C.
6. Maintain your list. At the end of each week, review your calendar and add new tasks. Determine if any B tasks should be As, and review your rankings for all A tasks. Make adjustments as needed.
As you gain experience working through your ABC list, customize into a fun process that best works for you. Here are some suggestions:
If using a spreadsheet application, utilize the columns and sorting.
If using paper, try dividing the paper into 3 sections by drawing a ‘Y’ and work your way around the paper. (And don’t give up…only incomplete A tasks will be recopied weekly going forward.)
Create a single task for addressing your paper inbox and quick reminder tasks to avoid the time of listing each of these items. (The theory is that it is silly to take more time to record, label and delete a task than it does to complete the task. However, if you do not record these quick tasks somehow, then they can add up and steal valuable time for your day, thus the importance of scheduling time to take care of the “quick” important tasks in bulk.)
What other ways have you customized your to do list?