Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel like you just don’t get everything done in a day you set out to? That the “to do list” barely gets touched and if anything the list grows, and quite considerably in reality. I’ve been thinking about this notion lately. And well to be honest observing my patterns of list making, list ticking and list growing. I was recently working closely with a colleague who noticed my list making patterns and how I moved between sticky notes and a note book. My sticky note strategy was to write a quick reminder of something I could complete soon but needed to remember while I was carrying out another task. If you like, it was a note to give myself permission to forget that idea and remain focused on the task at hand. This sticky note is usually in a funky bright colour and placed either on my laptop cover or on the cover of my notebook. It’s bright and I can’t forgot the action I need to carry out. Plus it’s small and I can scrunch it up and throw it in the recycling bin once I’m done. This too is kind of a nice action and I feel satisfied I’ve completed something.
My notebook which I carry everywhere is another list making record keeper, but one where I plan more significantly that the last minute or on the spot reminders. I also record actions based on discussions I’ve had with others about research or actions I need to follow through associated to academic teaching or leadership. My bright colours come out in highlighter pens for a show of completion.
Now although my colour coding note taking may not be interesting to some, what I have noticed is that often my note taking is productive and helps me project manage and achieve goals but other times it comes from a space of anxiety. An anxiety of committing to too many things at the one time! (A fear of forgetting and sometimes a tendency to micro manage myself can be drivers of this feeling). Although it comes around sometimes. It is in fact occurring enough for me to critically reflect about what it is that is driving this action and feeling. Now notes and lists are great but they have to be for productive outcomes. For example in making a list before you leave work to remind you of what you want to achieve or complete the next day, or when writing a list to break down all the tasks so you can clearly establish what, when and how long it will take for seething to be achieved. But sometimes the list can be associated to what Scott Belsky calls “Insecurity work – a fear that you’ve overlooked something or will ultimately fear” (p.104). Now this can be associated to the act of also continuously checking social media or googling ones name to see who is mentioning you (now I don’t have this problem…). Now everyone has different types of insecurities and one can’t be forgiven for trying to access information to assist in the anxiety going away. Hence another list to support the initial list just to make sure I don’t forget anything! (This problem I do have at times!) Belsky talks about strategies to help this:
1. Be aware of ones own patterns
2 Establish self discipline and set guidelines for when one list is enough verses beginning a total second one or just adjusting the initial list to acknowledge building in further elements to address.
3. Establish some guidelines and rituals for when you do make a list, where and what for. Even the time if the day or at a certain period of time for a project. The idea is to free up time and to assist yourself in being confident you who’ve planned for and considered just about every aspect that you can at that particular time.
How do you utilise lists? Do you create too many? When do you use them and in what form?