I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time keeping track of everything in my head. And I’m pretty sure that’s because my head isn’t built to keep track of everything.
We attempt to file away every thought, idea, memory, etc. in our brains, which explains why we feel so overwhelmed sometimes. Unrecorded thoughts are like mental clutter, keeping us unfocused and anxious.
So we need to put everything resting in our brains somewhere.
As I noted yesterday, though, to-do lists don’t work for most people. They don’t work because 1.) we try to accomplish too much in a given day, 2.) we usually underestimate how long something will take us to do, and 3.) we don’t review the lists we create often enough.
So, what to do?
My solution is Wunderlist.
After exploring the design and functionality of countless to-do list apps, Wunderlist is by far my favorite. Wunderlist is basically whatever you want it to be. You can create lists for absolutely anything. How you use it is highly personal. So, instead of telling you how to use it, I’m just going to show you how I use mine so you know how to think about using it as a tool for organization.
Here’s what my Wunderlist looks like:
You can see all of my “lists” on the left-hand side, the contents of each list in the middle, and the notes from each piece of content on the right-hand side. You can take extensive notes on whatever you’d like (which I find myself doing often). You can also star something to mark it as important, as well as set a due date, a reminder date, and a subtask. For simplicity’s sake, I don’s use those functions very often. Instead, I use my weekly daily review to remind me of what I need to do and when.
Let me take you through my lists:
The four folders at the top are the ones I access most frequently. The rest are reference folders.
- Technori Tasks: work-related tasks/small projects to work on
- Technori Content: work-related content ideas to pursue/assign
- Melissa’s Tasks: personal tasks/small projects to work on
- Melissa’s Content: personal blog content ideas to pursue/assign
- 2013 Goals: my list of sub-goals (related to my big goal) I want to accomplish this year. I also include one-off goals unrelated to my 1-2 big goals (i.e. run a half marathon, travel to a new country, etc.)
- Do Daily: all reoccurring tasks I must do on a daily basis
- Do Weekly: all reoccurring tasks I must do on a weekly basis
- Do Monthly: all reoccurring tasks I must do on a monthly basis
- The rest of the folders are batch tasks I’ve assigned to each day of the week. More about batch tasks tomorrow.
My two “Tasks” lists serve as traditional to-do lists, but I don’t reference them every day. I use them as a place to dump my ideas/to-dos/follow-ups and get them out of my head, but I only review them during my weekly review (unless it’s urgent—in which case, I put it on my calendar for that week immediately or I Boomerang it if I get a request via email).
I broke out “content” because I think about content a lot, so it makes sense for me to keep them separate from my primary to-accomplish lists.
The rest of the folders help me mentally wrap my head around everything that needs to get done, and when.
Essentially, my Wunderlist is optimized for brain dumping my ideas and prepping for a weekly review. I do not believe that reading off an endless list of to-dos every single day and trying to pluck a bunch of things out of it is effective. It’s just overwhelming and a time waster.
Instead, what I do is use my weekly review to go through all of my to-do lists and:
- Choose the next 10 tasks/small projects I want to set into motion or finish during the upcoming week. These are separate from the tasks related to my big goals, which are in a separate goals worksheet (I also reference this during my weekly review).
- Review list of all batch tasks I need to process during the upcoming week. I then review my calendar to make sure I will have time to get everything done during its allotted batch task day. If I have to schedule a meeting or something urgent comes up during a designated batch task time, I leave a chunk of time at the end of the week to play catch-up (this is almost always necessary, and setting time aside to catch-up is a great way to not overpack my schedule each week).
- Review annual goals weekly. I review my annual goals each week to make sure I feel like I’m on track. If I’m not, I come up with a solution based on the roadblocks and/or procrastination triggers I’m facing to help autocorrect the situation and inch toward accomplishing my goals.
That’s pretty much it. I find that the simpler a system you have, the more likely you are to stick to it. Knowing I have a place to jot down to-dos keeps me from feeling mentally scattered. But, only checking it once a week during my weekly review keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by a growing list of to-dos.