My List of Things To Do This WeekWe’ve all used them – lists of things to do, things to buy, places to go, people to call, tasks to execute – the list is endless.  It’s the simplest of management tools and one of the most damaging.  We even compile lists of lists.  Compiling a list is as simple as writing things on a piece of scrap paper – or it can entail complex software and enduring tedious meetings.

Why do we compile lists?  The simple answer is because we forget things in the hastiness of everyday life.  The list is there to remind us of what we planned to do and what we should do.  It reminds us of what we considered important in the face of urgency.  And, as Stephen Covey reminded us, the urgent will crowd out the important unless we put in place a mechanism to counteract the demands of urgency.  Hence, the list.

I create a lot of lists.  I found it helpful to write down, or in these days, type out lists of what needs to be done, items to buy, or what I intend to do.  And I refer to my lists as I am faced with demands or requests throughout the day.  Because my days are filled with distractions and multiple opportunities, I find that creating lists helps me to face my limitations and keep my priorities straight.

The most important list is my weekly Things To Do This Week list.  I create it on Sunday for the following 7 days.  There’s a section which has all my appointments by day along with the things that must be done that day – I keep it front and center on my clipboard which I carry for notes.  In size, it’s a half of sheet of paper – 5.5” x 8”.

This size also allows me to keep several other lists on the standard sheet of paper which I fold in half. What are the other lists?  They are:

  • Things to do – which is further broken down into:
    • Home improvements – Owning a nearly 70-year-old house means there’s always something to be worked on.
    • Major projects – These are big construction projects that will require a significant investment of time and expense.
    • Writing – Ideas that I get for writing articles for this blog or for woodworking
    • Me2 Solutions – Whatever needs to be done for the company
    • 2119 House – Projects for our rental property
    • Richard’s Projects – All those projects that my son dreams up for when I come to visit them.
  • Shop Projects – This is simply a list of projects for the shop – my “hobby” is an important part of my life and I’m always finding news ideas to make the shop better or more organized.

All these lists fit on a single sheet of paper, both front and back.  I keep the list in Microsoft Word and update the previous week’s list for the next week.  I check Google Calendar for the appointments and enter them into the list, then review all the other lists and enter into the Things To Do This Week list the day that I plan to do them.  It takes me approximately 10-15 minutes.  This review and list creation allows me to do two things:  Organize the coming week and make plans to be successful.  Repetition is at the heart of remembering for most things (emotion plays a very important role as well, but most things we do are not that emotional).  By reviewing and entering items into the list, I’m forcing them into my memory and I’m allowing myself to make the preparations so the items can be completed successfully.

The story is told of a consultant that was asked to examine and recommend improvements in the management of a major corporation.  After observing, the consultant suggested that the executives write out a list of things to do the next day as the last thing they did each day.  The executive laughed at this idea, but the consultant said to try it for a period and then pay him what the suggestion was worth to them.  A month later, the CEO gave the consultant a check for $50,000.

Often, it’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.