August 21, 2008
How do you keep track of the big and small details of your life? Do you use a traditional to-do list, the post-it method, or maybe it's the "all in my head" philosophy?
My four-pronged approach includes my Calendar, Forward Lists, Project List, and Action List. These four documents sum up my "life tracking" system. In other words, it's how I keep track of my life and how I make sure my life stays on track.
I use this for appointments and any tasks that are date-specific. The boys' soccer games, service calls, and article deadlines all go on my Calendar.
The Forward List
These are lists that I make when I dream a little dream. If I come across something that I can't act on in the near future, I put it in the appropriate Forward List. By keeping these items in a designated area, I don't lose them, but I don't have to think about them everyday either. Examples of Forward Lists include Books to Read, Article Ideas, Items to Purchase, Hobbies to Consider, and Curriculum to Review.
The Project List
I am a project lover. I have many interests, and my iron is in many fires. The Project List gives me a high-level view of all of the "big rocks" that I am currently working on. Anything that is multi-task in nature, such as planning a trip to South Dakota, organizing the basement, or planting a garden, goes on the Project List.
The Action List
The Action List is the front-line of my planning system. I regularly look over my Forward Lists & Project List and move next tasks from those lists to my Action List. This is essentially what David Allen of Getting Things Done fame would call a "next action." All of my next actions go on my Action List, along with any one-time tasks I need to accomplish. Taking out the trash, calling Mom, and making a trip to the drug store are all appropriate activities for the Action List. I also break up my Action List into contexts – often by where I need to do them. By batching tasks in this manner, I can optimize my use of time.
As we know, any planning is better than no planning. Better yet, though, is a plan you can use for life. By breaking down your approach to daily planning into activity-specific lists, you will start to see some real progress toward your key goals.