Todo Lists, Calendars, and Pickle Farmers

Ok, not pickle farmers. Calendars and todo lists have been on my mind a lot lately though. Aside from making me think of The Wizard of Oz, “todo” lists have always been something I struggle with. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to make them. I have created categorized, prioritized, color coded, device syncing, auto-reminding, loads of todo lists. The problem is that I never check anything off. No, I don’t mean I never do anything, but rather I spend about 2 days getting my todo list loaded up, and then get back to my actual work — and never check off an item or add new ones. I have some theories and thoughts on the matter, and I’m curious what your thoughts are as well.

The Artsy Fartsy Argument

I’m not convinced that just because a person is creative, they have an inability to be organized. Granted, the evidence sure does support the idea that it’s harder for those people to keep in order. I see this in school classrooms all the time. Those teachers in the creative arts tend to have cluttered classrooms and a disorganized desk. It’s not a steadfast rule, but it’s common enough to warrant notice. There are, however, several fine arts classrooms that are impeccably neat, orderly, and precise. What makes those people able to be creative and organized at the same time? Well, quite honestly I’m not sure. Maybe it’s discipline. Maybe it’s just happenstance.

The Too Busy Argument

I guess if I had to pick an argument, this one would make the most sense for me. I often find that I don’t have the time to organize, don’t have the time to schedule, and don’t have the time to keep track of my comings and goings. This argument, by the way, is a total load of crap. Yes, it’s true that I know where most things in my messy office are — but there are days I spend hours looking for something that isn’t where it “goes” in my piles of junk laying about.

Being too busy to stay organized is like being too thirsty to drink, or too hungry to eat. It makes no logical sense, but at the same time, I find myself claiming I’m too busy to do just that. A clean office is awesome, I won’t lie. Anyone that tells you they prefer a mess is lying — they just don’t want to clean.

The “I Forget” Argument

I think this argument, while it sounds the least sexy, is often the most honest and targeted reason for lack of organization. I don’t mean it’s a good excuse, I mean I think it’s a real excuse. I tend to forget the very things that are supposed to remind me. Todo list? Yep, forget about it until I have already done a handful of items on it, and should have added just as many to it. Calendar? Yep, if it weren’t for beeps, emails, and SMS texts, I’d miss 90% of things I’m scheduled to do. Need me to do something? Better remind me over and over. It’s nothing personal, I just forget constantly. If you think it frustrates you, try being me for a day. The only upside is that you forget just how frustrating it can be!

What’s a Loser Like Me To Do?

If my above post rings true for you, you probably have a collection of Palm Pilots, Paper Planners, Sticky Notes, Online Calendars & Todo Lists — and have used each one for a day or so before it begins to gather dust literally or virtually. I’ll share the only sliver of success I’ve had with organization, and maybe it will help you too. Google Calendar (or any online one I suppose) is the only thing I’ve really kept around long enough to consider at least marginally successful. If you’re like me, which you should be pitied for BTW, perhaps a todo list isn’t really something you need. Track with me on this for a minute.

Why not take your calendar, and schedule your to do items? You won’t add another mechanism for failure to your already poorly executed organization plan. If you don’t get them done, just drag them to the next day, next hour, etc. And here’s the real advantage: If you create your todo lists as scheduled events, you can estimate the time it will take you, and if you can’t fit all your items in your day — you can visually see why you’re failing. If you can’t fit your todo items in your daily calendar, how can you expect to actually do them?

Anyway, it’s what I’m trying now. So far, it’s worked better than anything else I’ve ever tried. This very blog post is proof. It’s on my calendar to write and edit every day from 5AM – 7AM. I’ll keep you posted as to how well I do at keeping this up. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll schedule a time to clean my office. ๐Ÿ™‚

5 thoughts on “Todo Lists, Calendars, and Pickle Farmers

  1. I love To Do Lists. Can’t live without ’em. And I’m really good about updating them (crossing out stuff and adding new things). When I’m on a job, I tend to go into the office at least 1/2 hour before anyone else will get there so I can update without anyone bothering me and print it out.

    If this makes me sound super organized…not so much. There’s a section of my To Do List that I keep separate because I know I’m never going to do anything about those items. It’ not that I don’t intend to tackle those tasks…it’s just that I know I’m not going to.

  2. I wonder what’s on Obama’s todo list.

    Personally I need to get organized before starting something. Helps me visualize what I have to do.

  3. Your todo lists are designed to help YOU keep track of all the things you have…well…to do. If you can go about your work as usual and keep things organized in your head, there’s no need to create a list.

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