Make three lists. Revise them daily and weekly.
Those eight words are what I got out of three years of reading and writing about Getting Things Done. In addition to my usual email inbox and calendar, which I used pre-GTD, I added three lists to my work life, that I look at, edit and re-edit every day and every week.
The Three Lists
These are my three lists:
- To-do list. The equivalent of David Allen's "Next Actions" list, my to-do list is about 20 small, highly doable things I'm committed to doing in the near future (like the next month.) My to-do list is how I assign things to myself, so I'm really careful about what I put on it and how. Here's more on the art of writing a doable to-do list.
- Projects list. Allen defines projects as undertakings that have several sub-actions associated with them. (Like, "Clean out the hall closet" is a project because it involves many sub-actions: "Sort books into library drive boxes." "Empty unlabeled boxes." Etc.) While Allen says most people have about 100 projects (!), I've got less than 10 going on at one time. Perhaps I lack ambition. Maybe I'm commitment-phobic. But for me, a short projects list keeps me feeling light and nimble. A long project list, on the other hand, becomes a heavy laundry list of crap I need to do before I die, and when I look at it, I want to crawl in a hole and suck my thumb instead of live because I think things like "I'll never get this done." And that's not the point.
- Someday/Maybe list. The name of this list is pretty self-explanatory. This is the stuff I haven't committed to doing yet, and may never. Things like "Learn Italian" and "Build BSG fan web site" and "Run a marathon" go here. Here's where I let my imagination go wild, and add every and any kind of possible goal and task I might want to complete someday. Someday/maybe is for dreaming big without committing.
Note: WHERE you keep these lists is up to you. I love text files and my favorite text editors, so I just keep these in three .txt files. You might use Remember the Milk or Outlook or Tada-Lists. It's up to you: just make sure the tool you use isn't too distracting and that you enjoy using it.
Once you've got your lists, they only serve you if you actually look at them.