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To-do lists, and getting things done, are by far one of the most enigmatic predicaments we find ourselves in, and practicing, on a daily basis. We worry about them all the time. I know I have downloaded various – yes more than 10 – different apps on my phone, tablet, and laptop to TRY and get into the swing of things aka Getting Things Done that are on my to do list.

For some reason we start our lists with great zest, we even minimize the many things we actually want to do that come to mind and prioritize. But golly for some strange reason we really never fall into the habit, or better yet change, into actual to-do list doers. I personally buy a Moleskine daily agenda every year as y to-do list because I feel more… like there is more manifestation associated with writing things down than including them on my phone. This year it’s Le Petite Prince as my Moleskine’s theme and it’s so cute. What is not all that great is the many, extreme amounts of pages left blank. Pandemic and all, and I do believe we need to cut ourselves some slack, I have done little of the many things I have set out to do.

Believe it or not I think the pandemic situation is prime-time for this – to-do lists. The majority of us have had plenty of time to think, to plan mentally, and have started writing things down because life simply is different now than what it was on January 30th of this year. I recently read about Eisenhower and Covey’s 2×2 Matrix to get things done. What’s urgent, what’s least urgent, etc. It plays well with business. I must admit that when working on a project, on writing and research, on simple project-based things that you want to use a Matrix for it works well. What I don’t think is that this is actually the first step to get things done.

We need to realize that business/work projects are pre-determined and so we pick up the project already in its infancy. We rarely create it. That being said, plugging it into a matrix is not that difficult. Let’s take ourselves back to thinking of things we’ve started and need to finish, or want to start and haven’t gotten around to.

May I suggest getting yourself a piece of paper, possibly a < $.50 notebook and write down things you want to do first. You need to let go of all of these “pending items” before you can actually begin to organize them. A Matrix is for when something exists. Before it exists, how precisely are you going to insert anything into a matrix? I would really like to know what you’re inserting into the matrix because you possibly just have a “idea” or “title” or “purpose”. Possibly not much else. Get your dissected thoughts and patterns, even if disorganized down on paper first.

That paper lets you see what you know. What’s been in there – your mind – the entire time. It’ll give you the parts to work with. You want to have fun? Use post-its. But you see, I used to do that with my students, and it was time-consuming to just choose the right colors, or not, when you can just writ things down instead. Please consider going from analog to digital. Habits are created one step at a time. Change happens when we reconcile the goodness of the present or future as better than the past. If we do not have a tangible evidence of what that [past] was, reconciliation may become that much more difficult.

So go get yourself a notebook. Make it your sketchbook of ideas. Eventually organize yourself. Download the best app FOR YOU, or buy a Moleskine like me. It doesn’t matter but go through the steps of creating a habit and eventually change. We cannot demand To-Do lists to just become second-nature to us no matter for how many years we have been trying to live up to them. The fact we haven’t doesn’t give us our 10,000 hours!

Try this:

  1. Write freely the things you want to do
  2. Put it aside and then no later than the next morning come back to it. Read it and rationalize importance.
  3. Start prioritizing your to-do’s.
  4. Start compartmentalizing them. What belongs to what and if they overlap even better.
  5. Do one thing at time and choose one.
  6. Create your matrix of those things that are urgent and important, not too urgent, not too important, can be supplemented or substituted.

Basically you want to get a really good view, not bird’s-eye only, of what you’re doing and want to do. But please, start simple. Start simple on your Notes on your phone. But start simple and lay ALL of your cards out on the table. Once that happens… start organizing Once that’s done… start doing!



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