At work, I occasionally read websites and blogs focused on productivity and work management. It’s totally not slacking off and not the least bit ironic to be reading a blog about productivity when you are supposed to be working. I generally don’t buy into that whole “success in business” genre though and find it all pretty worthless and it also makes me glad I don’t work in a corporate environment.
This attitude dates back to a memory of my dad being forced to buy and read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and attend a management seminar on it back in the 90s. If you know my dad, or even if you know me, you know how well this went over and how useful he found the whole exercise.
I did learn something a while back though that has really helped me keep up with my many tasks–a To Do List is different from a Project List. Maybe other people realize this already, but thinking about this and putting it to use has really helped me manage my to do lists for work and home whether they are in my head or on paper.
I have big projects that I work on most of the year, so if my To Do list says “Festival” I find that totally overwhelming and rather than getting work done, I get panicked that there’s too much to do and wake up really early in the mornings thinking about it. Instead, the Festival is actually a project and not a single task, and is broken up into many different tasks for my To Do list that happen over many months such as 1) send in rental application 2) review draft from graphic designer.
The same is true at home. Writing “clean the house” or “do yard work” on a To Do list (I don’t usually write tons of home stuff down on paper, but thinking in those terms is the same thing really) isn’t too helpful because those are projects and not tasks, and there’s always something to clean in the house. Housework, yardwork, home maintenance, and shopping are all never ending projects, for better or worse. Being able to think of them as different smaller tasks helps you to prioritize and get more done. Instead of writing “clean house” and “do yardwork” and expecting to successfully mop the floor, vacuum massive amounts of dog hair off the couch, clean the toilets, do laundry, weed the flower bed, clean the gutters, and cut the grass all in a single Saturday, a home To Do list works better if it has actual tasks on it that can be done one at a time. All of those things have to get done, but if they are many small tasks and not a giant project, they can be broken up, accomplished every day or every other day in just a few minutes, and that makes it much more manageable.