Why use one list when you can use eight?

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I’ve been reading about Kanban boards and experimenting with how I manage my tasks and projects. Kanban boards, whether physical (e.g., a whiteboard or sticky notes) or digital, usually begin with three lists (or columns): To do, Doing, and Done. You can add to these basic lists depending on your workflow.

Right now, I’m using eight lists:

  1. Ready
  2. Today
  3. In progress
  4. Done
  5. Backlog
  6. Deferred
  7. Someday/maybe
  8. Waiting

Here’s what goes on these lists and how I use them:

1. Ready (aka “To do” or “Next” or “Options”)

This is a list of things that I plan to do as soon as I finish what I’m currently working on. It’s a list of options to choose from, depending on how much time I have and my current context and priorities. I limit this list to 20 items and check it daily. As I do the things on this list, I go to my “Backlog” list (below) and add items to the Ready list.

2. Today

First thing in the morning, or the night before, I go to my “Ready” list and choose 3 tasks for the day. When I get these done, I can add more tasks from the Ready list or call it a day.

3. In progress (aka, “Doing”)

When I begin a task, I move it to the “Work in Progress” or “Doing” list. I also limit this list to just 3 tasks (at a time). This list keeps me focused; I work on what I planned to work on and do my best to finish it before moving on to other things.

4. Done

As soon as I complete a task, I move it to this list. I used to delete done tasks; now I collect and review them, at least temporarily, as a way to see my progress and learn when and how I work best. This can also show me when I’m working too much on one project or type of task and not enough on others.

5. Backlog

These are tasks and projects I plan to do but I’m not ready to start and probably won’t be for a week or two. When I am ready, I’ll move tasks from this list to the Ready list. I check this list weekly.

6. Deferred

These are tasks I will probably do but not anytime soon. I check this monthly. When I’m ready, I’ll move these to Backlog or Ready. Otherwise, I may delete them or move them to Someday/Maybe.

7. Someday/maybe

I don’t know if I will do these or not. They are more ideas than anything I’m committed to doing.

8. Waiting

Tasks or projects where I’m waiting on someone to do something or for something to happen before I can start or continue.

These lists give me enough to do at any one time but not more than I can handle, which is key. By limiting my “work in progress,” I can focus on finishing what I’ve started rather than starting something new.

I also use gtd tags such as, “Area of Focus,” “Context,” etc., which allow me to filter the lists, group tasks (e.g., all calls, errands, etc.) or find more tasks to add to my Backlog or Ready lists.

It’s early yet, but I’m liking this. I get my work done and don’t feel overwhelmed.

What do you think? Do you use Kanban or work with multiple lists? Do you limit your work in progress so you can focus on getting things done?

Here’s how I use Evernote to get organized and get things done

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Do you keep a reading list?

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I download Kindle books nearly every day. Some for research, some for fun, and some on subjects I later ask myself, “What were you thinking?”

What can I tell you, I like books.

Most of these books were free but I also buy a fair number. Right now, there are 4663 books in my account, and that doesn’t include the ones I’ve read and deleted.

Is that a library in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

Sometimes I go to read a book only to discover I’ve already read it. Many of these are books that offered no value and I tell myself I need to delete them. But that requires logging into my account and finding the book through the search mechanism and doing that one at a time is not a good use of my time.

So, I’ve started keeping a text file on my desktop: “Kindle books to delete”. When the list has five or ten titles on it, I log in and do the deed. I hope that one day Amazon gives us another way to delete a book (not just remove it from the device we’re using to read it). Until then, my system will have to do.

Now, what about books we’d like to read? A reading list of books we’ve heard good things about but haven’t had time to buy or look into?

For that, Amazon gives us an easy solution: wish lists. We can use them to identify products we’re interested in, including books. I use a wish list as my reading list.

But that’s too simple for many people. This morning I saw an article about the many ways people keep their reading lists. Some use a text file, some use a spreadsheet, and some use apps like Trello or Evernote. And there are many other options.

The article describes how some people organize their lists, update them, and add notes and other meta data. Too complicated, if you ask me. How much time do these folks spend organizing their lists?

I feel the same way about to-do lists.

Some people spend more time making and organizing lists than they do getting things done (or read).

When I hear about a book I want to read, I either buy it or put it on my Amazon wishlist to consider at a later time.

As Sgt. Rick Hunter (Fred Dryer) on the 80’s detective show “Hunter” used to say, “Works for me”.

How I use Evernote to organize my work

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How to get rid of digital clutter

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Are you a hoarder? I don’t mean clothes and newspapers and other stuff you’ve got piled up to the ceiling, I mean the digital clutter on your hard drive, especially your endless list of tasks and projects you plan to do “next” or “someday”.

To be sure, there are good ideas on those lists. But as a whole, there are too many options; collectively, they hinder your productivity. When you have too many ideas, you get to the point where you can’t decide what to do. You may even stop looking.

The solution? Grab a machete and get cutting.

But hold on. I know it’s difficult to get rid of things you might want to do someday. You worked hard to make and keep those lists. There may be a million dollar idea on one of your lists and you don’t want to let it go.

You might want to do what a mother did when she was trying to get her kids to get rid of their old toys.

“When I’d say, “What do you want to get rid of?” my kids would usually have a really hard time choosing anything to part with. . . . They wanted to keep everything. . . When I changed my words to, “What would you like to keep? What are your most favorite things?” my kids were suddenly able to get rid of a lot of stuff!”

Instead of agonizing over each item on your list, trying to decide which tasks and projects you would like to get rid of, start over and make a new list. Add only those things you want to keep, only those things you are most likely to do.

But unlike that mother’s kids, you don’t have to throw away any of your old toys. You can store your original list out of sight somewhere on your hard drive.

Your new list will help you get important things done, but you’ll know that your old lists still exist, in case you ever want to play with your old toys.

Get your marketing organized

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