I’ve been writing to-do lists for as long as I’ve had a job. The common denominator for them all has been that they quickly became out-of date or cluttered in a way that made them unreadable after some time of disuse (for example after a vacation). The problem is, most of us don’t work very sequentially. When we start with a task, more often than not, we bump into something or other that forces us to wait for external factors – a delivery of something important to the task, help from external contractors, or something else entirely.
Also, most of us don’t have the luxury to have only one thing to do at a time – and some of the tasks we receive have a higher priority than what we’re working with right now.
What I’m trying to get at is this: Linear task lists aren’t a good representation of how we think and work. So how can I get help visualizing my work week and my project as they change and as focus shifts?
What worked for me is mind mapping. In school, we had a teacher who always insisted on brainstorming over mind maps. I never understood the point of it, since for me, that process works equally well if I perform it serially, in the form of a list.
Mind maps as a way to organize work are very clumsy for the task as long as you keep them on paper. On a computer screen, they’re a whole different thing. Try XMind. It’s my favorite software for task lists right now. Open source, free as in beer, and available for all widespread operating systems, it’s painfree to try, so just do it and see if it makes sense for you too.