Does your to-do list overwhelm you? Is it so large or intimidating that you don’t know where to start? Stop and think about it for a minute. Maybe your to-do list isn’t what it should be. Although I strongly feel that there’s no single right way to do things, maybe you do need to think about purpose a to-do list really serves.
For instance, I still need to do my taxes. Normally I have them done by February, but I still have some sorting and data entry to do. It’s been harder to fit it in than I thought it would be. So it’s on my to-do list: do taxes. But that’s a lot to think about isn’t it?
That’s because it’s more of a project than a to-do item. What’s the anatomy of a to-do item? According to Merlin at 43folders, it’s this:
- It’s a physical action
- It can be accomplished at a sitting
- It supports valuable progress toward a recognized goal
- It’s something for which you are the most appropriate person for the job
If your list contains items bigger or more complicated than that, then those items may not actually belong on your to-do list, but on a project list. As David Allen notes in Getting Things Done, a small project requires more than one activity in order to be completed.
Filing taxes is definitely a small project – or maybe even a large one! Here are the steps I still need to take:
- Go through the last of my receipts for business expenses
- Log the expenses
- Review the entries to make sure items have categories and are categorized properly
- Add up expense categories (my accounting software will do this, but I still need to prompt it to add up everything for just 2008)
- Enter the totals into my tax software
- Pay my tax bill or get a refund (I think we’ll be pretty close to even, so at this point it could go either way)
- Monitor my filing to make sure it is accepted by the IRS
You see, doing my taxes is more than just a single item. And when I stop to do just one pieces, like going through my receipts, it suddenly doesn’t seem to intimidating.
Take a close look at your to-do list. Think about what your next action should be. Is that really reflected on your list?