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Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Time Management Tips #15 - Make Lists for Action

Time Management Tips #15 - Make Lists for Action

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Every time you have to remember what’s next to do, you waste your time.  You've heard of "paper shuffling."  This is like "thought shuffling."  You spend a lot of time shuffling your thoughts around, but not actually doing anything.

Enter stage right … the power of lists.

Time management tips #15 is make lists for action.  Use lists to organize and take more effective action.  Lists are your friend.  They help you organize your thoughts and ideas into action.  Pilots use checklists.  Sure they know what to do, but they also know that having the checklist helps free up their mind (specifically, their prefontal cortex).  Teams use inspection lists to drive quality, share processes, and share work.  Companies large and small use checklists for quality control and streamlining performance.

You can use lists to streamline yourself, improve your own quality, and simplify your work.

When you make your lists, test them against effectiveness.  Keep them as simple as possible, but make sure they help you.  Never become a slave to your list.  If your list gets too big, start a new one and carry the good forward.  Let things slough off.

Here are some of the most useful lists to have, when it comes to organizing your work and guiding your action:

  1. TODO for Today.  List your goals and tasks for the day.  Tip – Add your Three Wins for Today at the top)
  2. TODO for the Week.  List your goals and tasks for the week.  Tip – Add your Three Wins for the Week at the top)
  3. List of Projects.  List of the actual projects you are working on.  Give them a name.
  4. One List Per Project.  Have one list for each project to dump outcomes, goals, insights, actions.  This gives you one place to look.
  5. Backlog.  All the stuff you think you need to do.  Tip – Organize this by A-Z so you can quickly scan and find duplicates, and it forces you to name things better.  Name your work so you can refer to it, talk about, and think about it more effectively.
  6. Ideas.  Your nifty ideas to change the world, or your world, or whatever.
  7. Irritation List.  List of the things that bug you.  Get it out of your head, and down onto paper.

Another useful list is a quick list of the steps for a given task.  This can help you stay on track, or remember where you are, or easily find the next step.  The trick is not to over do this, or over-engineer your steps, or worse, forget to be flexible in your approach.  Focus on the goal, but stay flexible in how you achieve it.

Goals are always your guide.

Use lists to organize your work, organize your actions, and simplify your work and life.

For free, self-paced modules on time management training , check out 30 Days of Getting Results, and for more time management tips check out Getting Results.com.

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