I am in a perpetual search for the holy grail that will get me organized and keep me on track. I have tried every type of computer software, every app, every notebook system, every calendaring system and every paper system. I have tried the most highly rated and most popular systems and also a lot of the more obscure ones. (And of course, I have made up many of my own systems over the years.)
I have found systems that work for a while and then they don’t. I have found systems that I get super excited about and then after a week, I am right back to the system I will share with you below.
By the way, many, if not most of the todo systems out there include different aspects of my simple solution. So I really didn’t make this up, I just synthesized the strategies and made it work for me.
How to get started
Step 1: Write everything down that you have to do or that is on your mind. Everything. No matter how small and no matter what it is related to. Your home tasks, work tasks, hobby tasks, family tasks – everything.
Is your water heater 15 years old and needs to be replaced? Is that on your mind? Write it down. Does your car need service? Write it down. Do you want to lose those extra pounds you gained over the Holidays? Write it down.
After you nail down the miscellaneous tasks haunting you, think about your work. Make sure to include everything you are thinking about when it comes to your job and write it all down.
Step 2: Now you should have a paper in front of you with a long list of unrelated items. The key here is that everything is out of your head and now on paper. We are making progress! (Enjoy that sigh of relief!)
Step 3: (Optional Step) Depending on how extensive your list is, you may want to get a new sheet of paper and categorize your items into work, personal and maybe other categories like health, hobbies, etc.
Step 4: Get out another fresh sheet of paper and put the numbers 1-7 down the left side.
Step 5: In this step you are going to scan your list for the absolute most important thing that you can or should do. Look for the thing that is weighing on your mind the most. What is the most important thing you could be doing right now?
If you are finding this step difficult, borrow a strategy from the book The One Thing, by Gary Keller, and ask yourself:
“What is the one thing I can do right now
that by doing it,
everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?”
(By the way, that’s a great book with a ton of valuable information— unfortunately, it is one of the many todo strategies in my “that didn’t quite work for me” pile.)
When you have come up with the most important thing, write it down as #1 on your sheet. Then do that for the next 6 most important things and write those on your list as well. Now you should have a list of 7 things to do. Put that big, master list away and just focus on the 7 things on your list starting with #1.
Why it Works
The idea here is that since you can only do one thing at a time, you want to make sure that thing is the most important thing relative to everything else you COULD be doing at this time.
When you get to the end of your day, ideally all 7 items are done, but if not, at least you know you were working on the most impactful items and in the right order.
There you have it! Your total investment is zero and you can start to use this system today. And by the way, if YOU have found that perfect system, please share it with me.