Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Categories on My Palm Task List

These are the categories I have in my Palm task list:
  • Building--This category houses all of the tasks that I need to accomplish when I leave the school office and go out into the building. These include reminders to check on maintenance problems, talk with the custodian in the hallway, visit with the child nutrition program manager, stop by a teacher's room.
  • Calls--Here I will find a complete list f all of the phone calls I need to make.
  • Delegated--This category holds a list of what I am expecting from other people. When I place an order with a company, an entry in this category reminds me of what I ordered, the order number, and who I placed the order with. When someone borrows a book, I make a note of it here. When I delegate a task to a teacher in my school, I track it here.
  • Errands--I will spend less time running errands if I "batch" them. This category provides a place to collect all of those errands. When I decide I want to run errands, I have a complete list.
  • Home--This category is obvious. When I arrive at home, I see a complete list of all of the tasks I need to accomplish at home.
  • Office--When I am in my office, I look here for a complete list of what I need to be doing.
The idea is that these categories allow me to see a list of what I can do right where I am at that time. By the same token, when I am not in that location, that list is out of sight. While it is important to see a list of what I can be doing at home when I walk in the front door, it is equally important that when I am not at home, that list is not in front of me since I cannot do anything about those items anyway.

New Circumstances--New Procedures

Once upon a time a mother and daughter who were working together preparing the Easter dinner. At one point, the mother took from the refrigerator fridge the ham that had been defrosting. Before putting it in the oven, she cut about an inch off of either end of the ham.

"Mom why did you cut the ends off the ham?", the daughter asked.

The mother thought for a moment, and then replied, "That’s the way my mother always did it."

Overcome with curiosity, as often children are, the little girl asked if she could call Grandma and ask her.

“Grandma, Mommy cuts the end off the ham before she cooks it and says that’s what you always did. Is that true?”

“Yes, dear, that true. I always did it that way.”

“But why Grandma?”

Grandmother thought for a moment and replied, “Because that is the way my mother always did it.”

At this point, nothing would do other than to call Great Grandma.

“Great Grandma, Mommy cuts the ends off the ham before she cooks it. She says she does it becomes Grandma did it. Grandma says she did it because you did. Is it true that you cut the ends off the ham?”

“Yes, indeed, my dear. I always did it that way.”

“But why, Great Grandma?”

Holding her hands about 10 inches apart, the great grandmother replied, “Because my pan was only that long.”

The point is this:
When we are faced with certain circumstances, we come up with procedures to handle those circumstances. So often, the circumstances change, but our procedures stay the same.

Up until now, our organizational tools were pencil and paper and we came up with procedures that made the
best use of those tools. Our procedure was to make a daily to-do list. That insured that we would start the day with a list that was neat and legible and had some kind of order to it. The price we pay for it is the time it takes to rewrite that list every day and recopy all of the things we didn’t get done yesterday. Plus the truth of the matter was that the most of what is on the list does not have to be done today, it just needs to be done as soon as we can get it done.

Our circumstances are the different. We have a digital tool. When we check something off the list, it
disappears. The list sorts itself. Undone tasks simply remain on the list for the next day. There is no recopying lists ever.

I organize my to-do list primarily by context. Show me a list of what I can do where I am whether I am whether that is I am at home, on the phone, running errands, walking through my school, or in my office.