Improving productivity with worklists

There's been times when I've procrastinated for hours before I got to do anything. It is extremely demotivating and self-reinforcing, because the undone things tend to push you back to procrastinating on the next day. About two weeks ago I read a post about staying laser focused and thought out it could help so I made myself an action list.

At any moment there are several things that feel like worthwhile to do and the list is growing every day. Without any organization these works would pull me into every direction at once and suspend me from starting on any of them. The worklist can solve this problem by keeping a record of my preceding and subsequent desicions. Instead of having to decide it every time what I'm doing when sitting on the computer, I'll peek what reads in the list.

To make sure the worklist doesn't become a distraction in itself I'm closing it during the worktime and opening it only at afternoons or when I need to peek into it again. It's often easy enough to remember what I did during the day until to the time I get to update the list again.

Just any worklist doesn't work

I have had worklists before. I filled them up with humongous tasks that simply couldn't be taken off the list once you put them in. The badly organized worklist can easily turn a dismotivator in itself.

I'm using a grouped task list though I didn't decide the organization in prior. In use, these kind of groups formed up:

Additionally some tasks have reasoning on them to tell why they are in the list, and more tasks that can be done after them. If the need arises I'll form up more groups, but if it appears that this thing will start to work against itself I'll try to flush it clear before giving up on it entirely.


I'm using SMART criteria to evaluate the quality of the tasks in the list. I could still probably better filter out the tasks I'm doing based on these criterias.

Overall this means that the tasks that cannot be done in a day go directly into the long term list. If the task turns out to be larger than I expected I will move it into pickup and break into smaller tasks.

The worklist is well-located

If I were not using my action list, it'd be pointless. For that reason I have only an one worklist on my work computer. It's in my home directory: ~/worklist The clear and obvious naming ensures I don't end up with multiple.

More to consider

If 80/20 -rule holds here, there would be always some tasks in the worklists that are exponentially more important than the other tasks. Identifying the tasks that get me farthest fastest could be an economically good idea.

The worklist itself may turn out to provide some more useful statistics. It could make sense to track start and completion day for each task. Just the DONE -list can help to figure out what to do, so it's potentially useful for setting up directions.