Replace To-do Lists With Calendar Placeholders

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The alternative to the feckless to-do list is what I call “living in your calendar.” That means taking your tasks off the to-do list, estimating how much time each of them will consume, and transferring them to your calendar. (Don’t forget to leave time to process your email. And leave some empty space — one to two hours — each day to deal with the inevitable crises that will crop up.) In essence, you’re making a production plan for your work.

Deciding which item to handle at what time overcomes the paradox of choice, compensates for the intrinsic heterogeneity of your work, provides the context of deadlines and other commitments, and provides a (soft) commitment device to help you do the right thing at the right time.

via To-Do Lists Don't Work – Daniel Markovitz – Harvard Business Review.

This really is a great idea, but I think it often lands face-first on the concrete of reality.

I’ve already done this with many of my recurring tasks, but depending on the job you do it could be that most of your time is spent on ambushes. So, scheduling a couple of hours at the end of the day to handle them isn’t an option.

Still, there’s value here.

In short, try to get as much as you can of your list of things to do into actual time slots on your calendar. And then work on those items during those periods.

This is good for two separate reasons:

  1. It shows you how much or how little time you have during your day, so you can start pushing back on taking more work

  2. It can also help you accomplish more by tangibly giving yourself only a small amount of time to do it (see the Parkinson’s Principle)

I’d say definitely try to move what you can to the calendar, but remember that you’re likely to still need to-do lists to handle some parts of your day–and that’s ok.

[ Sep 29, 2013 ]

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