Friday, June 05, 2009

The Master List

In the last post, I talked about a lengthy to-do list as being a positive thing. In this post, let's look at how to organize that list so that it can be lengthy without being overwhelming.

My to-do list is, in fact, one long list. It is organized chronologically. Since the BlackBerry does not have a "start date" field, every task from now on into the future is listed one after the other. As of this moment, I have an entry which comes due in 2017!

What is important for me is to see a well-organized list of what I want to accomplish today in the order I want to accomplish it. Each day, I quickly scan the list of items with a due date of today or earlier and adjust the due dates to move the things I want to accomplish early in the day to the top of the list. I look for a group of half a dozen or so items which fits together well and assign them a due date of five days ago. They move to the top of the list. I scan the list for another few items which I want to accomplish next and give them a due date of four days ago. I continue the process and have a groups of items dated three days ago, two days ago, yesterday, and the remainder left with today's due date.

What if I have additional time? A trick I use is to employ the last day of the month as a place for my "master list." Those tasks are the ones which have no urgency. Many do not have to be done at all. They are options that could add to the richness of my life. Whenever I have"cleared the deck" of those items which must be done now and am open to options, I always know that I can scroll to the last day of the month and pick up some ideas.

When the month ends, I will never have finished everything that was on the that "Master List." I wait for the next day, the 1st day of the month, and look at what is still on the list. It is then that I reassign due dates. There may be 150-200 such tasks. Many of them will simply be re-scheduled for the last day of the new month. On Outlook, simply putting a number in the due date field translates to that day of the current month. For example, if this month is June and I enter "30" in the due date field, Outlook converts that to "6/30/2009."

Other tasks will have gained some urgency or will seem to fit well on a particular day during the month. Those tasks will be given assigned a due date accordingly. Still other tasks are such that I know I do not want to see them again for several months. Those tasks will receive a due date for the last day of the month several months hence.

By maintaining that "master list" on the last day of the month, my list for the current day is manageable. At the same time, I have a place to store the rich supply of activities to which I can look forward.
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