Ditch the “To Do” List & Other Productivity Tips

I'm Peggy Olson and I'd like to smoke some marijuana to stay productiveProductivity: You’re doing it wrong. At least according to this article on The Week, which insists that you can be an efficient, impressive worker and still get home to watch the local news, if that’s what you want.

Cal’s five big tips:

    1. To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.
    2. Assume you’re going home at 5:30, then plan your day backwards.
    3. Make a plan for the entire week.
    4. Do very few things, but be awesome at them.
    5. Do less shallow work — focus on the deep stuff.

Makes sense to me. Entirely by coincidence, I started cursing the tyranny of To Do lists and experimenting with scheduling instead right before I read the article, so I feel weirdly validated. As we’ve discussed here, in addition to Billfold work, I’m freelance, meaning my days are lacking in structure but packed with assignments. At any given point, I never know how many to accept.

Up til now, I’ve done okay with a To Do list separated out into four quadrants {Urgent & Important / Urgent but Unimportant / Not Urgent but Important / Not Urgent & Not Important} which apparently originates with Eisenhower??

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But though it’s an improvement on the original, even that segmented and prioritized kind of To Do list doesn’t tell me much about the time and energy required to accomplish each task.

When talking to my doctor on Monday, though, I thought about how she schedules her day: she blocks out time for each patient, and if all her blocks are full, she doesn’t take on new patients, because she can’t. Simple as a pie chart. What if I tried that? So that’s my experiment for this week. Among other things, I expect it to teach me how long certain assignments take: already I budgeted one hour for something and found I could easily spend two. Next time I can adjust accordingly.

The other tips make sense, especially #4. I’m working up to that. Meanwhile, perhaps you have some experience you’d like to share?

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