What’s the optimal timeframe for “To Do” lists, a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime? I’m not sure. A day seems far too short, a year and lifetime unhelpfully long, unless the list is filled with BHAGs. For some people it’s all about the week ahead and the Sunday p.m. planning is key.
Maybe the optimal timeframe boils down to the nature of the “to dos” on the list. The vast majority of mine are of the daily/weekly variety and that’s probably why I get stuck in “tyranny of the urgent” mode. Of course it feels good to check off “clear my inbox,” “read papers 2.1-2.4,” and “call X back,” but only on the surface because it’s frustrating not to make progress on weightier, more meaningful medium and/or long-term projects.
If I subdivide my “To Do” list into daily, weekly, and monthly subsections, I predict I’ll still get stuck in the daily thicket. I’ve read some productivity lit and I think I need to breakdown my medium and or long-term project-related “to dos” into numerous small, specific “to dos”. I should also take more time to “plan backwards” by figuring out when I want to complete the medium and long-termers and then determine what intermediary steps and related deadlines make the most sense.
Truth be told, determining the perfect timeframe and wording my “to dos” with greater specificity probably won’t result in a radical increase in productivity. For that I think I need to combine improved “to doing” with greater self discipline to read and immediately act on email once in the a.m. and once in the p.m. Right now, there’s too much email water torture going on.