I’m a serial procrastinator. If there’s a cup of tea to be made, then I’ll gladly go and make it rather than doing what actually needs to be done. But sometime – especially in a work environment, there’s no time for procrastination and you need to get stuff done.
What I want to show you is how I get myself organised as one of the most unorganised people that live on Earth. After all, if I can make it work then anybody can.
My secret is to become obsessed by lists. If I live by the rules of the list, then I get things done. It rules my work-life and I actually get a lot done and on time. Most importantly, it makes me feel in control.
The 2-list foolproof system
Now, this isn’t just any list. I’ve tried all sorts of different techniques over the 8 or so years that I’ve been working and it’s taken me all that time to find a system that I can stick to and where things don’t magically fall off with the deadline a distant memory (we’ve all been there).
The reason why it works for me is that I use a 2 list system. Yes, that does sound a bit like more procrastination to write 2 lists… but I’ll show you how it really works for me:
LIST 1: Monthly activities
My first list splits all my activities into weekly lists based on deadlines, covering about a month. I use a page per week to write down everything I need to do in that week. I’ll also add in any meetings scheduled for those weeks as they take time too.
After I’ve created my monthly list I’ll add in any important deadlines and star anything with a high priority for that week. I then transfer it to a daily planner pad that lives on my desk on a weekly basis.
LIST 2: Daily activities
My second list is my daily planner and makes sure that I do the things on the monthly list. This is where the magic happens.
You see, most people will use one or the other, but this can cause problems. Using just a monthly list means that ad-hoc weekly activities are missed, or the list becomes unmanageable with the smaller activities never getting done. On the other hand, using just a weekly planner means that you never see the bigger picture and tasks will fall off the list. Using the two together pretty much makes you a master at organisation with nothing falling down the cracks.
By planning my time every day using the monthly planner as a guide, I can split bigger activities into bite sized pieces to make sure they’re done. Having one big activity on the monthly list can seem daunting… frankly I’ll put it off. But splitting that time into smaller projects helps to move it forward.
When I’ve completed a project, I’ll tick it off both lists. Any new pieces of work that come up through the week are added to the lists to show that they were adhoc. This helps me when reviewing what I did to see why I didn’t get around to something on the bigger list.
At the end of the week, I’ll review my planners and anything left undone will be assessed and will have one of the following actions:
- Move it to a different week as a higher priority if it’s getting more urgent
- Delegate it (or another task) to a colleague if I haven’t got time
- Take it off the list completely if we don’t have resource to do it
When I’m working, I can just take my list at face value and methodically get things done. I don’t have to think about what I should do next, as I’ve already written it down. It saves that procrastination time. I don’t amend the list until I’m in reviewing mode at the end of the week.
If items need moving from my monthly list, I’ll cross it out if I’ve decided to take it off my list (or delegate it), or add an arrow to show that it’s moved to a different week. That way, my monthly list then becomes a log, leaving no activity behind in a given week.