I've been using (to be specific, struggling with) todo list and GTD to manage my life for a long time. In this post, I summarize my thoughts on using todo list.
Why use Todo List
- Because people do forget.
- Because people are born to be lazy.
- Because we can get everything right now.
- Because things need many steps.
- Because we don't know that should do first.
- Don't use tools without sub-list.
- Don't use tools without synchronization functionality.
- Don't use tools that cannot archive projects (or lists).
- In some circumstances, a pencil and a paper are better than an app.
Does Inbox Really Matters?
It depends on how complicated is your task hierarchy. If you are a student focusing on your study and one or two club, usually you can categorize your item when you add to them. But if you are involved in more than two cooperative projects, you do need an inbox preventing yourself from being troubled by overwhelming tasks.
Rules for Read-it-Later List
- You really need a read-it-later list.
- Put everything which inspires and interests you in it.
Pick items from it when you feel bored and nothing to do.
- If you feel sleepy, consider drop the item or pick another one.
- If you do really finish the reading, mark it item as resolved.
One more thing: exclude this list from all.
Rules for Writing a Todo Item
- Don't use ambiguous action (e.g. "think about", "consider", "try"). Because these verbs are actually involves decision-making and struggling with opinions. Instead, your todo items should clearly indicate what to do next (e.g. "write", "buy", "tell", "chat").
- Don't use repeated tasks as a habit tracker. Use special purpose app for tracking habits. Because that will mess up your todo list. How?
- Don't put your ideas inside it. Write them down in your notes app. Create another workflow for picking, reflecting and realizing your ideas.
- Don't write big goals like "finish my paper". Use small and certain goals.
- Don't write guidelines as todo item. Guidelines are something like "be efficient", "keep quite". They didn't describe certain tasks, so avoid using them.
- Describe expected outcome. If you only write what to do, you may hesitate when you mark it as completed.
Diffuse and Focus
Sometimes you get into the flow. In this case, you have no willing to spare time on writing down what you should do. In other word, you just want to do the work.
Rules for Tags
Most productivity tools have tags. But seldom people use it right. Tagging a task may satisfy your digitalization content — but that is useless.
- Don't create a tag if you will never retrieve or filter it.
- For tools which don't have priority, create several tags declaring tasks' priority.
Rules for Cleansing
You should take care of your task container.
- Keep cleaning outdated tasks.
- Keep removing ambiguous tasks.
Extra Tips for Recovering a Tool
If you leave your tool for a long time, and you decide to reuse it. How to recover?
- If you leave it for so long that every tasks are outdated. Consider delete everything or create a new account.
- If you leave it for just one or two weeks and some tasks are still valid. Removing those outdated tasks and projects then keep on!