I’ve been writing a lot recently about taming your ToDo lists. My focus has been on learning how to do less, but there’s another important way to go about taming your ToDo lists that’s as simple as learning how to write them in the first place.
This became clear to me as I was reading Dustin’s post Back to Basics: Your Task List over at Lifehack.org. It’s a quick but very good read.
One of the best insights from the post is about including all of the relevant information needed to complete the item in question. Think of the difference between writing “Get Details on Project X” and “Call Susan at 422-111 about Project X by Wednesday.” The latter links the action with the project it belongs to quite nicely and allows you to complete the action as a stand-alone item, whether you write it down, put it into your phone or a computerized task-management system, or email it to yourself.
I learned to do this from reading Merlin Mann’s post GTD: Project Verbs vs. Next-Action Verbs. In that post, he talks about how to spot whether you’ve got a project or an action, but I took it as a primer on how to write ToDo lists.
The table below, reproduced from the aforementioned post from 43Folders, sums up most of what you need to know to start writing good ToDo Lists.
|Next-action verbs (Task Verbs)|
|Purge||Look into (Web)||Gather|
The easiest way to implement this technique is to memorize, print, or write this list down and keep it close to you. When you start listing, try to start a task or project with one of the verbs listed above. For tasks, include phone numbers, individual people, email addresses, and deadlines in the task so that you don’t have to reference other information to complete the tasks.
It takes a bit of mental reprograming, but it pays for itself very quickly when you notice that your lists order themselves nicely and you can look at a task once and complete it without having to backtrack. Try it with the Productivity Series Planners, too – it works!