August 10, 2018

Retooling My ToDo List Approach

What’s a textbook sign that you’re a classic over-doer? Geeking out to your todo list. Not the list itself, but specifically how you organize it. This here is my third post on the subject. I think I need to check myself in to Todo Lists Anonymous.

I fell behind, again. At one point my weekly task list had nearly 50 items. Once my list gets that long it becomes really hard to see what I need to do at a glance, and I sometimes miss critical details. Most of those tasks were cleaning related and not time sensitive. I wanted a way to mute my cleaning project so I could be sure I didn’t miss anything important while I got myself caught up. My chore app (todoist) doesn’t provide this functionality, so I needed a work around. I also wanted to make sure I knocked off a non trivial number of non-reoccuring tasks each week or I’ll never get on top of things. The solution I came up with works for both.

A little background: the todo list app I’m using is Todoist. It allows me to create sub projects, and sub tasks. I can color code projects, set individual task priority and (when I fall behind) reschedule everything with a single button push. The higher priority a task has, the more immediately it’s rescheduled, but todoist tries not to overload any one day. Let’s say it’s Monday, there’s 10 items due Tuesday, and the rest of the week is mostly unencumbered. Todoist will likely schedule the highest priority over due tasks on Wednesday and the lesser priority tasks later in the week.

Setting the priority flag for every non-cleaning task would be a little ridiculous, not to mention time consuming. Besides, it loses its meaning if everything in a given project is top priority. I needed a different solution.

Since Todoist relies on the priority flag when rescheduling tasks I like to reserve it for things that really shouldn’t be pushed back or could have a negative consequence. Failing to change filters could make appliances less efficient and shorten their life span. Forgetting to clean the washing machine could contribute to mold build up, but it’s less likely. There’s no harm in ignoring dust bunnies. By using the priority flag this way I’m sure I’ll still complete them in a reasonable manor.

Todoist let;s me set a color code for each project. I opted to use the same color – grey – to represent low priority sub projects. I created sub projects “reoccuring” under household, business and personal. Now when I look over my weekly todo list my eye naturally jumps over the less important grey tasks for the non-grey ones. I can also see the ratio of important non-reoccuring tasks to reoccuring tasks in my weekly productivity view.

This way I can be sure I’m making forward progress each week. If my weekly bar is mostly grey, I’m not. My goal is thirty tasks a week (todoist’s default goal setting), and as many non grey tasks as possible. It would be easier if I was better at sticking to my 5 minutes per task rule. Business related tasks like debugging especially usually end up taking a bit longer. Ah well, it’s still forward progress.

As an aside, I also have a weekly re-evaluate and organize my todo list. Definitely over kill. Don’t worry, it’s in a grey less important reoccuring project.

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