The Value of a To-Do List

Happy New Year! Did you go back to work today after a well-deserved holiday break? Maybe you were like me this morning, driving into work and thinking “Gosh, what I am doing today? I’m not really sure!”

You’ve got a few projects in progress, but nothing that your boss is breathing down your neck about, with an especially high priority, or imminent deadline. What do you do?

Maybe your problem is the opposite, when assorted priority projects all have milestones coming due in the coming days, and maybe your boss (or another person you consult with in cases like this) is still on vacation. This can be especially troublesome if you are the only boss you have. How do you keep your head from exploding?

I used ot be I'm not sure.For many of us, when days begin like this, by the end of the day the answer to the question “What am I doing today?” turns out roughly “nothing.” Paralyzed by indecision, or overwhelmed with options, you keep trolling your email box waiting for something to grab your attention, but something never comes.

These are the times when it helps immensely to have an ongoing to-do list (or multiple lists) to make decisions for you about what to do next. I use a terrific bit of code called MyLifeOrganized to keep everything together, and one of the best things it does is algorithmically resolve all your tasks into a to-do list, when you tell it how important and/or urgent a project or task happens to be. I could go on about how well MLO performs, but this isn’t an ad.

By itself, the list won’t solve your priority problem. Do I have to tell you that algorithms aren’t perfect? Your judgment is still required. But better to choose from two or three items than 50, no? And if you really don’t have anything pressing, perhaps now is a good time to take on a little bigger project that takes a little more thought or planning–when better to start that planning?

The new year often prompts new thinking about how to live one’s life. Getting Things Done is a perennial issue in my life, and sometimes you just have to know where to start.

How do you resolve dilemmas like these? Are you as productive as you’d like? Do you make resolutions, set goals, or some other variation of New Year course correction? Leave a comment!