Going Beyond the To-Do List

Apologies for the delay between posts - I've been on vacation in the coastal town of Seaside, Oregon with my family for the last week, trying mightily to avoid my computer and all things associated with it (though tell me to put down my iPhone and that's another story). In this post I want to share some ongoing lists I keep in addition to my daily and weekly to-do lists that help keep me organized.

  • Networking - I often meet people at conferences, work functions and social events that I want to follow-up with later or schedule lunch or coffee with. If I'm having a busy week it's really easy to forget about reaching out, so I keep a "networking" list that reminds me who I want to email or call at some point in the future (along with a reminder of where I met them and their contact info). This also includes bloggers I admire and co-workers I don't work closely with. If you're really committed to connecting with someone, schedule a calendar (or Jott) reminder for yourself to follow-up.
  • Ideas - It sounds obvious, but I like my ideas to have a home. Most of my best ideas come to me at night right before bed, so I keep a notepad in my nightstand. An ideas list is great because even if you don't want to act on it now, you can always return to the list later. This is comparable to the Someday/Maybe list that David Allen (GTD) talks about - things to be done at some point but not now, so they don't belong on your to-do lists and don't have a specific deadline (yet).
  • Big Purchases - A more specific use of the someday/maybe list, big purchases are items that you know you want but can't afford right now, or that you want to think about for a little longer to make sure they are worthy of your well-earned cash. I think the most effective way to use a "big purchases" list is to constantly re-order in terms of importance - this will help you focus on saving for those few things that are really important to you instead of splurging on random big ticket items as you run into them.
  • I.O.U.'s - I have an Excel sheet with a list of my monthly expenses, big purchases I'm considering and I.O.U.s (both what people owe me and what I owe them). You don't have to keep them all in the same place as long as you know where to look. Keeping an I.O.U. list is an important part of ensuring that your finances are up-to-date and accounted for. And if you "borrow" money from one of your savings accounts to pay for something like a credit card bill, write an I.O.U!
  • Unanswered Questions - My dad and I have a little game we play called "drop the bucket." The analogy is that there is an empty bucket in your brain with an unanswered question. If you drop the bucket into the well of your brain (like a wishing well), when it's ready it will come back up with the answer. So when you're looking for answers or ideas, write them down and "drop the bucket" and they will come up eventually. The point here is less about the game, and more about the notion that asking the right question is the hard part - once it's out there in the universe and you review it periodically over the course of days or weeks, your mind will begin to wrap around it and give you some answers. Keep your unanswered questions list somewhere where you can see it - and review it frequently. Another great use for this is to turn stresses in your life into questions: "I can't pay my credit card bill" becomes "How can I pay $X of my credit card bill by July 1?". Another one might be "I'm stressed out at work and have so many meetings and emails I can't get my important projects done" becomes "How can I prioritize my tasks at reduce my stress at work?" So you get the picture - ask the questions even if you don't have the answers (especially if you don't have the answers) and over the course of a week see what comes up!
  • Your Life Checklist - Check-out my post on this if you haven't seen it already. Arguably the most important list, your Life Checklist reminds you of all your dreams, big and small, of what you want to do in this lifetime!

Help me grow this list of lists! As always, if you have ideas or keep lists that aren't mentioned above, please share in the comments :D