Posts Tagged ‘lists’

Live by the list, die by the list

September 4th, 2008 by Reinder

I am disorganised, and this is hurting me at my job, at a time when I feel very strongly that I need to maximise my career and perform as well as I possibly can. I have tried to get more organised by keeping lists, but today, I ran into the limit of what lists can do for a person, hard.
And I was actually quite satisfied with my progress over the past few weeks. This morning, for the first time in weeks, I had enough peace of mind to sit down at the start of the work day and spend half an hour doing nothing but plan: write up my early-morning list (one of two - the other is the end-of day list which is a memo of things that need to be done the next day, in a rough order of priority. By the time morning has arrived, new urgent work to be delivered the same day has usually arrived in my mailbox and that planning has to be revised, but at least I have a starting point for the next day ready before I leave the office), prioritise in some detail based on how best to prevent surprised and then talk to people about that. I was doing well.

Right until a client e-mailed me about a job that was due yesterday that I'd forgotten about completely.

And that's where lists reach their limit: if you live by the list, you will die by the list. Because I rely on my lists so much, and because one of the ways I use them is to jot things down to enter into the company Intranet later so I won't have to drop everything I'm doing and lose my place in my ongoing work, what isn't on the list doesn't exist. As a result, a job that would normally take a day to do but would have been completed easily if I'd started on time just disappeared from my planning. Needless to say, I'm very frustrated with this, and a bit despairing about what I should do to prevent this. It needs to be solved otherwise I can't perform well at my job; but I can't go back to dropping whatever I can to prepare and administer incoming projects, because in the work environment I'm in, I wouldn't get anything done.

I don't have a solution yet. Sites like The Simple Dollar have endless lifehacking recommendations. That site particularly recommends the book Getting Things Done but implementing some of the solutions in that takes a time investment upfront that I simply don't see myself having in an environment where half an hour of idle time is a rarity, and as for implementing the most important step of that, listing everything, I've just demonstrated the risks inherent in that approach.

What do you do to keep track of things? Please let me know in comments. If you're a fan of the comics I make, your solution just might help me to spend less time in the office and to come home with more energy left to work on them. I did get the project back on track with the help of some of my co-workers and a new deadline, but at a cost of me coming home much, much later than planned, putting in overtime which I'm not going to get paid for.