In the three weeks since returning from the Educause Institute Management Program, I have attempted to be more focused on the tasks at hand and not the shiny options that so often cross my path. The tool that I have used is a modified quadrant to do list.
This has worked really well to help me identify the ugly things that need to be eaten first. The new items enter the list on the lower right which is a landing-place for all new items. They live there until the end of the day when I start a new list. At that time the item moves to one of the other three quadrants based on importance and immediacy. The other caveat is that I can only move new items to another quadrant if there is room left to write it in. This means that if I have not crossed off enough items then I can not add the item and give it my attention. If the item needs my attention then I need to juggle something on the list by dropping it off the less important list, or changing an item from soon to later. As there is only so much time in the day, there is only so much room on this paper so it is a physical reminder of limit resource our time is.
Outcomes of this –
- I have a place for stuff so I don’t have to remember everything. This greatly reduces the stress and energy trying not to forget something.
- It helps me to figure out what are the current priorities and more quickly identify what is going to make the “important lists” and the items which are very unlikely to get any attention. This allows me to avoid giving false hope to those making requests of me.
- I have a better grasp of the difference between project items (which used to be the basis of previous todo lists) and actual todos (things that are very tangible and limited in scope)
- Mild panic when I cannot spot the tablet of them that I had made in a quick scan of the room.
I don’t think it revolutionary as I know others have used lists and whole time management programs are developed around this concept. In the words of my wife “Welcome to being an organized professional” but the difference between playing an organized professional on tv and actually being one is a stark contrast.
If you are interested in a copy of my to do sheet – (BTW how do you spell todo?) – you can download it here.
What do you do to stay organized?