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To-Do or Not To-Do List


There are two kinds of list people in this world: those that make lists and those that do not. Not to say that in either case individuals are more or less organized. As long as your method gets you from point A to point B, to each their own.
However, if you have read any of my previous posts then it should be pretty obvious which category I fall into. For example, when preparing for the project ‘Make My House Happy’ I created not only a lengthy list, but categories and timing for rooms and areas of the house. Did I find other sub-categories along the way? If so, they were promptly added to the list, followed by a delightful checkmark of completion.
I’ll admit, on the to-do list maker spectrum I am on the far right. Even on an afternoon when I could rationally relax the below image could never be my reality.
But what is important is that I know myself enough to know what works. I learned quickly my freshman year in college, that without a list, I would be a in a heap of trouble. Let’s say nearly forgetting about a major midterm was a wake up call.
Based on my work with hundreds of college students over the last decade, there was many times my theory of two types of list people didn’t fit. What I found was these students hadn’t found what worked for them yet. Did they need lists and programs to move them along or would that type of structure hold them back from being fully utilized? Being stuck in the middle was causing disruptions balancing their studies and social life.
Are you still figuring out what fits for you: a list lover or an all from memory organizer? Without completely convincing you to come to the color-coding side of life, I offer a few of resources to try out.
Evernote
Dropbox
Wunderlist
A good old fashion notebook
Below are a handful of helpful articles on writing to-do lists:
How to Write an Effective To Do List, I loved as the author dove into color coding and technology based organization.
How to Make Your To-Do List Doable, includes ideas like: You are the boss of you, how to order yourself around and how to write a doable to do.
Marc Andreessen’s Productivity Trick to Feeling Marvelously Efficient I was particularly drawn to this article that spells out the Anti To Do List, where instead of creating a list of what to get done, you write down what you have accomplished (as you complete them).

What you do is this: every time you do something — anything — useful during the day, write it down in your Anti-Todo List on the card.
Each time you do something, you get to write it down and you get that little rush of endorphins that the mouse gets every time he presses the button in his cage and gets a food pellet.
And then at the end of the day, … take a look at today’s card and its Anti-Todo list and marvel at all the things you actually got done that day.
(via The Pmarca Guide to Personal Productivity)

These last two articles are especially unique, as the first takes on the dilemma if to do lists are a good or bad method for productive.
The last article lists out nine DO Not Do lists such as checking email in the morning or answer calls from numbers you don’t know.
Because I’ve got the organization thing down, I thought about how I could use my list skills to continue to move myself from good to great.
Considering this quote, starting the first of the year I stepped up on my daily to-do list to including the concept of ‘We are what we repeatedly do.’ If this quote was true, then I could craft a list of activities I would attempt to cross off each day. All in the hopes that they would become engrained into my life, as positive habits.
In January these were:

  1. Watch a Ted Talk
  2. Journal
  3. Exercise
  4. Read
  5. Project: Make the House Happy
  6. Brainstorm Blogging
  7. Meditation Practice

Did I successfully cross off each of these every day? Maybe 70% of the month. But this hasn’t stopped me from trying the same concept in February. Adding on to January, I am seeking daily to:

  1. Blog
  2. Exercise
  3. Meditate
  4. Watch a Ted Talk
  5. Journal
  6. WordPress/Blogging Education

Are you a to-do list master? What technology, techniques and projects work for you? Does your list making help or hinder you?
OR are you a genius of mind memory methods? What methods of organization work best for you?

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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