A tip for writing down tasks

3 January 2017 by Jennifer

Writing down tasks for later? There’s a tip I like, from the “Getting Things Done” book.

It’s to think up-front, as you’re writing it onto the list, about what the task actually is, and make sure your description includes a verb.

The idea is that when you’re re-reading the list, the less vague version helps your brain to grasp immediately how to start the task, which might mean you’re less likely to skip over it thinking “meh, maybe later”. So although it’s slightly more writing, it can be a good investment of effort.

A piece of paper is headed "To Do List". The top tasks are "Fiddly bothersome thing", "Looming obligation", "Task I really ought to do", "Vague suggestion".  A glow surrounds the next task, which is "I know how to do this one".  The list continues "And another thing", "And another thing".  A pen lies next to the paper.

For example, you might quickly jot down “X’s birthday soon”… or you could think a little bit further and write “Email X and ask what they’d like for their birthday” and “When next at shops, look at birthday cards”.

(In general, I quite like that book, by the way. And it has other useful ideas about how to organise the “capture” of information and future plans, so that things won’t be forgotten, yet also won’t be overwhelming. I just happened to be thinking about this one.)

P.S. Related: Justified by works

A piece of paper is headed "To Do List". The top tasks are "Fiddly bothersome thing", "Looming obligation", "Task I really ought to do", "Vague suggestion". A glow surrounds the next task, which is "I know how to do this one". The list continues "And another thing", "And another thing". A pen lies next to the paper.