I have a confession. I am a productivity junkie. Ever since I can remember I have been making to-do lists and finding tangible satisfaction in putting a checkmark in the checkbox or physically scratching through items on my list. I have even been known to put something I just completed on my list so I can experience the euphoria of striking it from said list. Maybe it was partly the college prep school culture growing up or just how I am wired, but regardless it’s always been hard to tame the voice that says do more and sometimes… just do everything better.
The second obstacle relating to my productivity obsession is the very omnipresence of it. Some people say I just can’t turn off my mind or my brain is firing on all cylinders or something about a hamster. Whatever your analogy I feel that too—a lot. Striking at any moment, my very desire for productivity can actually impede productivity, challenging my efforts to be present in a mindful, reflective moment or breaking the flow of an otherwise successful focus block.
Should Have Had a V8 (the duh moment)…
Color-Coded was Overrated
Maybe everyone else already does this one big list thing, but in my misguided attempts at organizational efficiency I had multiple, color-coded todo lists that correlated with my color-coded calendar categories. Ten to be exact. Each was categorized to represent a distinct role or responsibility I held and all the associated tasks and events that would ebb and flow as a result. Sounds lovely I know, but my brain didn’t actually think in these nice little boxes, instead my thoughts were much more reminiscent of spaghetti than waffles (supporting what Jeffrey and I learned in our group study earlier of Men are Like Waffles & Women are Like Spaghetti). Ok so step 1…I moved all these crazy lists into 1 master list. Now what?
In another section of Managing Your Day To Day, Mark McGuinness suggests limiting your daily to-do list to a 3”x3” Post-it commenting, “If you can’t fit everything on a list that size, how will you do it all in one day?” This was the second epiphany I needed to click. I always put way too much on a daily list, but now I realize part of that was solved by new habit number one—by putting any stray todo on the master list my mind was freed to focus and get things done. I am still working on creating the habit loop for this, but I try to take a little bit of time each morning to look over my master todo list and pull a couple must do items onto my smaller sticky note for the day. My sticky note is not a 3 by 3 yet (for the record more like a 5 by 7) but I know I still have work to do.