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:
- ACTIVATION - things that I am about to start working on and finish on the upcoming work days.
- ONGOING - things that progress on their own weight, but I have to keep track of them.
- PICKUP - list of things that need to be done, but not now. I select some of these into the activation list.
- CONSIDER - list of things that could be considered
- NOTE - things to note related to certain group of items in the list
- LONG TERM - provides context for the other items in the list. Few carefully selected tasks. I tend to number these tasks and refer to them with numbers on other tasks.
- BLOGPOST SUBJECTS - for every sunday, helps me select what to write about. I sampled this post from here and moved it into activation.
- DONE - The destination for things that went into activation list. If the things fail, I put an 'x' before them and add in what turned out to be a problem. Otherwise I just move them over.
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.