I occasionally us a to-do list, but for the most part, I don't need one. (At least I think I don't need one.)
Instead, I set up whatever I'm going to do first each day -- my most important task -- the night before. That way when I sit down to work I don't need to make a decision about what to do first. I just start. (Decisions are willpower killers; it's much easier to stay on track when you structure your environment so you need to make fewer decisions.)
Once I've knocked out that task the rest of the day typically goes well. The satisfaction of completing something important creates a natural sense of momentum that makes me want to knock out the next thing, and then the next thing...
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stop working. (Which is why, whenever possible, I like to stop for the day at a really good place.)
But I really struggle to remember ideas I have. I really struggle to remember people I meet; not just their names (although I'm not great at that either) but key details. I really struggle to remember things I learn, perspectives I gain...
Simple example: Gaining strength and building muscle. I know progressive overload is the key. To keep seeing improvement, you must consistently increase the workload, which means increasing either the weight you lift or the amount of reps you do (or some combination of the two). Do 100 pushups a day for three weeks straight and at first you will definitely get stronger... but eventually your body will decide that 100 pushups a day is the new normal, and you'll stop getting stronger. Do the same thing long enough -- with any physical pursuit -- and your body adapts. That's why following the same routine, no matter what the routine, eventually results in a plateau. To avoid a plateau, instead of changing exercises, the key is to change the load you put on your muscles.
I know all that. Shoot, I've even written about that. But occasionally a week or more will go by before I realize that I've just been going through the motions. I've been using the same amount of weight for the same number of reps.
I'm working out hard, but but I've stopped pushing. I've forgotten that I have to do more.
Which means all the time I spent for a week or more wasn't wasted -- but it certainly wasn't as productive and effective as it could have been.
And that's why I love Ryder Carroll's new book, The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future.
The idea behind The Bullet Journal Method is simple. Instead of a to-do list, Bullet Journaling is intended to create "intentional living," reducing distractions to allow greater focus on what truly matters -- to you.
After all, most successful people are great at finding ways to do more of what they do well -- or want to do well. Great salespeople have found ways to do more actual selling than other people. Great managers have found ways ways to do more leading than most other people.
And just as importantly, most successful people remember the things they want to remember. (Which is why Richard Branson carries a notebook all times.)
Carroll's system -- although it's a fairly formal system, he's happy for you to adapt it to your own needs -- has three key components:
- Track the past: Using nothing more than a pen and paper, create a clear and comprehensive record of your thoughts.
- Order the present: Find daily calm by tackling your to-do list in a more mindful, systematic, and productive way.
- Design the future: Transform your vague curiosities into meaningful goals, and then break those goals into manageable action steps that lead to big change.
I've started tracking the past. You'd be surprised how powerful that is. Ordering the present I do less of; maybe I'll come around to the value of to-do lists, but for now...
Designing the future is something I'm working on; I'm extremely intentional about current goals, but not so great at thinking ahead about goals I would like to accomplish in the future.
But I feel I'm on the right track. The parts of The Bullet Journal Method I'm using work for me. I like keeping a better record of my life. I like having an easy way to remember ideas I have, people I meet, things I want to do someday....
Intention starts with organization, but the process of organizing your tasks and thoughts and ideas has to be effective and easy.
Give The Bullet Journal Method a try. Within 15 minutes you'll find two or three things you'll want to do differently that will make you more productive, more intentional, and less stressed.
Can't beat that.