General comment on rules for the list

I am on my lunch break and have about five minutes left before I go back to work. I thought I would take a moment to talk about TODO list.

This is a reaction to Seraphim's “if the list has rules, I won't do it” comment. I see this a lot. Certain people don't like rules. Well, I like rules but I really, really understand why people feel this way about “productivity systems”. The more rules, the less time you will follow it. Your natural state takes over at some point. See comments here:

I don't know where Mark Forster said this but I do know I read this sentiment on his site and I agree with it: you are almost always better off doing any task than you are checking the list for a task to do. What I mean is if something is right in front of you and you are feeling like you really could do it, just go for it. This is the opposite of “rules for the list”.

I go to the list when for the following reasons:

  1. review – ensure I am not missing anything, I do this when I am not feeling productive, it is a task I do when procrastinating or when I am feeling like too much time has passed since my last review so I feel out of control (this can be five minutes, five days, or five weeks depending on what is happening).

  2. focus list – a special case of review, sometimes I know I have a day to get house stuff done and there are a few items on my main list that are about the house so I run through it ignoring everything that isn't “house” and make a focus list to churn through that day.

  3. task details – I know I need to call Bob and wrote his number down with the task.

In none of these cases am I stopping what I am doing to “go back to the list”. It is either a process task (review or focus list) or a reference for a task I decided to do (details). If you are the type of person who forgets critical tasks maybe you need a daily focus list or a calendar entry to get a certain task done (tasks on a calendar that are not appointments are a sort of focus list).

This means the list isn't dictating your next moves, you are.

Tags: #productivity