List making is not always self-managing: A tip.

I have been at my new job just long enough now that each day, the more I get done, the more items I have to add to my To-Do List. It’s as if each accomplished task generates two additional tasks. To be frank, if I am doing my job right, this is the way things should go.

The problems with this phenomena are as follows:

Sometimes things arise that take neccessary priority and so the list isn’t touched for hours, or the whole day.

Sometimes, the list is so long, that many things get completed and crossed off, while other, equally important things are obscured, and forgotten.

Sometimes, just having the list gives the impression that things have been completed, and distractibility rises as production drops off.

And often, even though things are being crossed off the To-Do list, it keeps growing and so the list goes from one sheet, to two, to three, to four…and then just the sight of it becomes so aversive that it’s overwhelming and it gets hard to know where to begin!

I was at this point on Thursday when a co-worker came into my office, and caught site of my 4 sheets long To-Do list. She gave me a tip that has already proved very useful, and effective.

At the end of the day take the items you did not finish and move them to the end of the list with a star next to them. That way things that are done are out of sight, the list is shorter, and you know which items have been carried over (or put off).

Each time an item gets moved it gets an additional star next to it.

If an item has three stars, then it’s likely you have been avoiding it. So just get it done!

I immediately tested out this technique and it colsolidated my list that day from four sheets to two! I snapped out of my overwhelmed stupor and got a few more things ticked off by the end of the day.

It’s true that by the end of Friday my list had grown up to 3 sheets, but now I felt a much higher level of control over it, and I will continue to use this method.

I am not sure who coined this strategy (said co-worked learned it at a seminar or workshop of which I don’t know the name), but I have to say, paired with a count-down timer and some salient reinforcers, it’s a behavior analyst’s dream!

Go do more!


5 responses to “List making is not always self-managing: A tip.

  1. On my weekly revised to-do list I grade jobs A, B, C depending on priority – A means urgent, B means can wait a bit and C means can wait a week or so. It helps me feel less overwhelmed by the volume and focus on what’s important. With any luck the Cs might even take care of themselves.

  2. great advice!

  3. Yes, prioritizing is definitely helpful…I find the list grows and priorities change so fast that I have a hard time with triage!

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