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To Do


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Making Better Notes

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Photo © Copyright 2005 by Keiko Ida, Tokyo. By permission of the artist.

You have lots of things to do. Your ToDo list needs to hold hundreds (or thousands) of items at a time.

Don't avoid writing down things you want to do because the things you want to do are numerous. Of course there are lots of things you want to do: the point of writing things down is to remember what you want to do, and to choose the best thing to do next. There is no shame in having lots to do.

Don't leave big tasks, or obvious tasks, or long range tasks off your to do list. John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." If your ToDo list is filled with minutiae like "buy milk" and omits big things like "finish doctoral dissertation", it will constantly torque you away from working on that dissertation. Don't obsess about big tasks, but remember to think occasionally about the big picture.

As part of your daily or weekly sweep, make sure that things you've done are removed from your ToDo list. If you use an electronic tool like Tinderbox, preserve completed tasks in an archive; if you use paper, try to find a way to show that the task is done while leaving it legible. Later, you might need to know that you finished a task!

Don't use your calendar as a ToDo list: calendars are for appointments.