Alternative ‘to do’ lists

If you’re anything like me, you’ll always have a to do list (or two) on the go. Usually written with pen on paper, sometimes a word document, or a phone note.

Essentially these lists are exactly what they claim to be, a list of all the things I need ‘to do’. And usually, they work perfectly and do the job exactly as they should.

But sometimes, a to do list just isn’t appropriate or helpful. Sometimes something slightly different needs to be used instead of, or alongside, a to do list.

Here are some of my recommendations for alternative to do lists, when they are useful and how they work.

A ‘could do’ list

A could do list is for those times where we feel overwhelmed by all the things we ‘could do’. We have a long list of tasks, and we don’t quite know where to start. There’s nothing majorly pressing. Or, we feel that every task is equally as important or urgent.

By calling our list a could do list, we shift from a place of being forced to do things. Instead we are in a place of considering doing them. It gives us a bit of freedom around our tasks, by suggesting that all these things on the list, we could do. They’d all take us towards our bigger goals. None of them are urgent and none of them are especially standing out more than another.

A could do list means that we can look at all the tasks, and perhaps approach them from a different perspective.

We might find that once our list is written, we can see something that we ‘should’ do. For reasons other than it being urgent or important. Or perhaps, with the freedom to do anything on the list, we’ll spot something we actually really want to do.

The could do list is also super helpful for supervision or work meetings. You can ask your supervisor out of all the things you could be working on, what would they recommend you start with.

I once took a task from my supervisors suggestions and chose a task that I felt I should do. I then chose one thing that I really just wanted to do. It meant I had three tasks to start with, reducing the overwhelm and helping me take the first step.

In doing this, we unfreeze ourselves from that state of being slightly paralysed by all that we have to do.

By saying we ‘could do’ tasks, we can trick our brain into wanting to do them, and not feeling like we have to do them.

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I tell myself I have to do something, my inner toddler throws a tantrum and my resistance will come in.

Tell myself that I could do it, suggests that I don’t have to, which immediately makes me want to do it. Go figure!

Done lists

This is one that I swear by. I could write an entire blog post on I’m sure.

A done list is one that is really handy to have on the go alongside a to do list. This list does what it says on the tin too. You write down every single task you’ve done, no matter how big or small.

These lists are especially useful when you feel that you aren’t being productive. Or when it feels like you aren’t ticking much off your to do list.

Often, our days involve more than our to do lists. So we spend our day busy and completing tasks. But because they aren’t on our to do list, we don’t have the joy of ticking them off. We look at our to do list and see we’ve only ticked a few tasks off. We end up feeling disheartened, and unproductive.

A done list captures all those things we do that weren’t on the to do list. It captures all those little jobs that come up as you work through your day. The things you didn’t expect to need to deal with. The things that you take for granted when you think about your productivity.

My done lists have everything on them, and just as I break down my to do list, I break down my done list.

This means that if I get ‘up to date on my inbox’, every single email that I reply to or file away, goes on the list. Every step of submitting expenses (online claim, printing claim, attaching receipts, taking to the internal mail) goes on the list. Because it’s these things that take up our time, but only get a tiny space on our to do list (if they were on there in the first place!).

Living in your schedule

So this one isn’t technically a list, but it is definitely an alternative to a to do list. This list is useful if you can be fairly certain about how much time you’ll need to complete tasks.

You might need a to do list to get this set up. Once you have done it for the first time and you’re up to date, you can begin to just use this as your task management.

The idea is that instead of writing the task on a list, you open your calendar, and schedule when you plan to complete that task. In this way, you not only have your tasks written down, you have time set aside to do them.

If you don’t complete a task, you shift it into a different part of your calendar. This can give you a bird’s eye view of everything you need to get done, and when you are going do it.

I personally haven’t used this method, but would like to trial it one day.

I can see how it might be useful when you have flexible time, and if you are good at estimating how long something will take. It could also be super useful for those tasks where there is potential to drag it out, or be a perfectionist.

Sometimes limited time, knowing you need to move straight onto the next task to stay on track, can help you to be more focussed and productive.

How about you, do you use or would you like to use any of these techniques? Any others you’d recommend?

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