Whether you’re a student or in industry, the best way I’ve found to keep on track is an effective to do list. The problem with a traditional to do list is that items can be nebulous and therefore difficult to close. You get distracted with other tasks, and by the end of the week, it seems you haven’t accomplished anything. I’ve come up with a simple matrix that makes things easier. First of all, you need to make you’re tasks small, discrete, and easy to close, even if this makes your list look longer and more daunting. You’ll be able to close items more quickly, gain momentum, and help get into the deep work, flow state (more on these in a future posting). Also, you need to have a separate list of unplanned tasks that you complete. This way, even if you don’t get through as many planned tasks as you thought, you’ll be able to see that you’ve still accomplished something. Lastly, you need a new list every day. What I do is cross off whatever I accomplish, and then move the incomplete tasks to the next days list. This then becomes my starting point for the day. I also do end of day and end of week reviews, in a “brain dump” method, to make sure all of my tasks are on the list. I will discuss David Allen’s GTD method in a future post, but, as a teaser, it is paramount that you use your brain as a processor, and not as a database. This means that any tasks you need to complete, need to be out of your head and into your to do list.
Have a look below at the template I have been using for the last year:
I have kept a record of all my lists over the last year, which means I have a great summary of what I have been working on, and what I have accomplished. I also makes a great sort of daily journal.