I am a fan of to-do lists. Every morning, I consult one to see what I should be doing. But there is another step I need to do to make sure that tasks that should be there are included.
Other fans of David Allen’s Getting Things Done discipline know that the key to “stress free productivity” is having a system that will present to you what you need to see when you need to see it, and to make sure that the next action on each of your commitments is in front of you as often as practical. The To Do list is great at telling you what you need to accomplish today, or what your priorities were yesterday. But what about that thing you committed a month ago to do tomorrow? Or remembering that thing you need to do every Wednesday?
It would be great if there was one system into which you can dump everything you need to do, and have it alert you when each item is due. Like most of you, though, life doesn’t lend itself to that kind of simplicity. My client relationship management (CRM) system keeps track of what I need to do for clients. I am doing a little work for Advisors4Advisors.com, and we use a separate system to collaborate, including shared tasks. There are personal things that appear on my calendar that need doing (did I get my son his graduation present yet?). Then there are those personal errands that do not have a place in any of those systems.
Though I shouldn’t admit it, I have my own struggles with paper to-do lists. In the past, I have spent more time than I wanted transferring today’s incomplete tasks to tomorrow’s new list. During particularly busy weeks, I may even skip that step, and end up by week’s end with half a dozen incomplete lists that need triage and consolidation. In regard to that particular challenge, I have started moving tasks to the on-line task management system Nozbe. When I check something off, it disappears that night, and the lists are automatically updated. I can access tasks at home, on my Blackberry, or anywhere I can an internet connection. It is an awesome tool, and I recommend it highly. I am gradually learning to use its powerful features. But that is beyond the scope of this post.
So I am stuck, like most of you, with multiple systems that each have things that can be missed and cause me to fall short on a commitment. To bring it all together, I have a simple morning checklist I go through to make sure I know what I need to do. Nothing complicated, just a quick run down to confirm that I have checked each of the places where I have recorded the promises I have made to myself, my family, and my clients. Anything coming up on the calendar? Check. Client tasks I scheduled for today? Check. In five or ten minutes, I can be sure I have not missed anything that needs to happen today.
I have posted the list I use here, and you can probably customize it easily to work for you. I still have to do a weekly review, but this provides a quick, daily routine to keep me on the straight and narrow between my less frequent, higher level reviews.
Do you have a morning routine to help keep you organized? I would love to hear your ideas!