Simplifying The Target List

Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by cliff1066™

I am not one to make a scheduled or timed plan for every day. I believe that putting things into my calendar is just asking for me to not trust my calendar.

I also don’t scan list after list to find out the next thing I can be doing. I don’t like the frantic activity that seems to me more about tracking than actually doing.

But I do have a list of my current projects, and when I plan my week, I make a list, containing targets for each project that I want to try and get to during the next week. I do this all on paper because it really sinks in when I have to write things out.  But what happens then?

Making A Target List

Rarely can we not see where a project is going. I know, for example, that I want to completely plan the end of year Girl Scout outing this week. I don’t need to write down every single step – glancing at the goal is enough to remind me that I need to make reservations, get permission slips signed, etc.

I have notes of course, so I know what has been done. But I don’t feel a need to list out every next little action I need to take.

So my target list works well to keep me on track.

Making Sure You Use Your Target List

What I noticed, though, is that the target list is on paper. And since I spend most of my time doing things against electronic lists, my targets were getting lost. There were weeks when I made no progress in things because I forgot they were part of my targets.

Out of sight, out of mind.

So I started adding my target list to my Remember The Milk with no due dates. That helped, because things were in front of my face. Now when I looked at my list,I could see the things that Stephen Covey would classify as important but not urgent.

Yet I wanted to take it one step further. Looking at my schedule and my targets, I could set days when I thought I would have the time to tackle them. I still left the dates off the tasks, but I started each task with the date in parentheses so it would sort to the top of the undated list.

By putting the target list where I would see it daily, I made it much more likely that I would actually work on those goals. Do you have any tricks to make sure you get out of the daily tasks and onto the bigger tasks? Share below.

Photo by cliff1066™



  1. says

    I agree that if your list is out of sight then the tasks on the list are not going to enter your mind.

    The assumption I’d like to question is whether there is a legitimate distinction between urgent and important tasks. In my experience the tasks that bubble to the front of my mind and get done tend to be either urgent and important, or just enjoyable.

    Personally I’m finding that operating with out a list is working well for me at the moment. If I ever need to create a micro lists of tasks, I’ll just get out a flash card and write down a couple of bullet points. Often I won’t look at the card again, but writing stuff down seems to help.

    All of this is probably just my personal style thought. Also, I’m a college student, so my work is well defined in the first place.

    Thanks for the article.

    • LJ Earnest says

      I think there is a distinction between urgent and important. Let’s take something that is happening to me right now: the laundry needs to be done. This is an urgent task, but in the grand scheme of things, it is not important. On the other hand, I have writing to do on my novel; to me that is important because it moves me toward a lifelong goal. I think there is a great difference between important and urgent. Sometimes they may overlap, but not always.

  2. Ian Kelly says

    Thanks for the post, this made me think about where my lists of things to do was kept how often I was looking at it and how well I have been doing on personal projects.

    I also get greater satisfaction on writing things down physically, just a flow of things that I think of that need doing as they come to me. I review this list weekly and then look to schedule them into the week. I also at this time simply cross out anything that is now not relevant. At the time it was, but now it isn’t but at least at the time I captured it.

    I am finding more and more that from a personal success/fulfilment aspect that I have to schedule things and have the self discipline to complete the scheduled items. Otherwise weeks can go by and the progress just ins’t there on projects and the disappointment monster comes knocking.

    I agree though, I don’t break things down in to multiple small and incremental tasks. Just having the project with 2-3 items is enough to get the process moving.

    Thanks for the post, loving your blog