Today I received an email that caused me to stop and reflect on 2021. It is that time of year, you know.
The email came from Todoist, the online to-do system I use to keep track of what and when I need to do things. Some say I am retired or semi-retired, whatever that means. Although, some days, when I look at my daily to-dos, it sure doesn’t seem like I am retired.
The day before Christmas, my family celebrated my 82nd birthday. How did I get that old? When I was growing up, people my age were ancient and, most of the time, just sat in their chairs, quietly passing each day.
That is not how I spend my days. The report I received told me I completed 4,305 tasks last year. That is eleven tasks each day, 81 tasks each week, and 358 tasks each month. After reading that, I think it may be time for a nap.
The report gave me lot’s of other interesting information. My most active month was January. It probably reflects the New Year’s resolutions I made last year. The report also noted that my least busy month was February, which perhaps reveals how long those annual resolutions lasted.
Mondays and Fridays were my most productive days, while Thursdays seemed to be the day I powered down each week.
The report also reveals that I am an early morning person, with over a thousand tasks completed last year between 6 am and 8 am.
One of the neat features of the Todoist system is how easy it is to postpone things I know I won’t get done when scheduled. The report revealed that I do this most often on Mondays and at 7 am.
For those familiar with Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment, you will understand my focus on organization. My top talent is Strategic (always planning a way forward), backed up by Arranger (always organizing things around me). I grew up professionally in public accounting, where our work was driven by checklists of actions to be taken in each step of our work. The habits developed as a young auditor cause me to write down the activities I know I need to take each day. These daily to-do lists drive my daily actions.
I keep very active these days, helping others, especially senior executives searching for new roles or leading teams of other leaders. Those who know me well understand that I need to write down my commitments, or I will likely ‘forget’ what I have committed to doing.
Throughout my career, my Learner talent has caused me to continue searching for ways to keep track of what I need to do and the commitments I make to others. More than three decades ago, I automated my to-do lists using ACT!, a contact management system that served me well until I replaced it with Microsoft’s Outlook as my goto to-do system.
A couple of years ago, I learned about the Todoist system and began to work with it to organize my many commitments and actions. It has become the central tool that keeps me focused on the essential things in my life, professionally and personally.
I enter personal reminders as well as professional commitments into the Todoist system. I access it through my iPad, desktop computer, and iPhone. Each morning, I open Todoist on my iPad and plan my day and the week ahead. Each item in my Todoist is given a date and time for completion.
When I create an action item in Todoist, I can schedule it to repeat using a powerful natural language feature, i.e., “every Friday at 7 am”. Then, when I check the item as complete, it automatically moves to the next scheduled occurrence.
I prioritize my actions using the Eisenhour “important and urgent” method, which creates four buckets into which every action is placed:
- Important and Urgent,
- Urgent and Not Important,
- Important and not Urgent, and
- Not Important and Not Urgent.
Each day, Todoist helps me plan my day using four groupings:
- First Things
- Top 6
- Second 6
- All other Important and Urgent items
“First things” are the actions I need to take at the start of each day. I have created a filter in Todoist that presents me with the “First Things” scheduled for today. Some may be daily items, while others may occur on only specific dates or only once. I check it off as I complete each item, and it disappears from the list and then reappears on the day of the next occurrence of the action.
The “Top 6” items are those top priority items I have committed to completing today. The “Second 6” items are those items I want to finish today, but only after I have cleared the “Top 6” list. All other “Important and Urgent” items scheduled for today end up in a separate list.
Uncompleted items from previous days are listed in “Overdue” lists to complete or reschedule.
Would you like to learn more about how an old retired guy gets things done? Just schedule a 30-minute Zoom call at https://calendly.com/tfsamson/conversation-with-tom-about-todoist