To Do Lists

Most productive people will tell you they use To Do Lists. I am a big fan. In fact, since I use Outlook 2007 for my email reader, I keep my personal to do list in Outlook. Because tasks can be made to repeat at regular intervals, I can check off a task, and then have it repeat a week later, or two weeks, or even a year.

As I have said before I love to read house keeping forums. They are always so funny to me because the people who post can never seem to get any thing done.

Now here is my to do list for today:

Wash sheets and comforter
Clean out refrigerator
Clean off stove
Clean off dishwasher
Change Blueberry’s bird cage
Feed Mac
Remind #2 about head gear
Straighten kitchen after dinner.

Those are very specific tasks, because I only created this list once (in Outlook over a year ago) and I have it repeat itself over and over again. If I were going to write out a list for today, I would say:
Clean kitchen
Change birdcage
Get ready for bed
(that is what I do when I straighten kitchen, remind #2 about headgear and feed the dog)

But when I read these forums, their list will be:

Make bleach solution
Take every thing out of refrigerator
Wipe down walls of refrigerator
Wash refrigerator drawers in bleach solution
Throw away old food
Put good food back in refrigerator
Go through art work on front of refrigerator and throw away.
Get bird cage out of Living room
Throw away old litter…
Well you get the point

It takes them longer to write that out than I spend cleaning the refrigerator. Multiply that by every job they are going to do that day and they spend about 90 minutes a day making the list. That’s a form of passive-aggressive procrastination. Then they have to post it over and over again on the forum. Then they wonder why they never get anything done.

For a to do list to be productive, it has to be a general idea of where you are headed, not a word for word turn. Mom wanted a GPS for Christmas, so (no one tell her, okay) I went and got her one. I tried it out to be sure it was going to work. It told Hubby and I exactly where to turn and exactly how long we would need to wait before the next turn. It walked us from the store, all the way to our doorstep. For a GPS, that is a good thing. For a to do list, I don’t need so much detail. Saying Clean Living Room is specific enough for anyone who might get my list and want to help to know where I am headed. I don’t need to list each and every thing that needs to be done. Most everyone can look around and see that the floor needs sweeping and the TV could use some serious dusting.

Now we are the same way with our genealogy. We can get bogged down in creating a list of things to look for and not ever do the looking. Every day more and more records come online. There’s no way one individual can keep up with all of them and which they have checked and which they are working on. So we have to add the ones that look promising to our to do list, and check them off as we use them. To do lists can help us to know not only where we’re headed, but where we’ve been. If we know where we’ve been, we won’t go there again and again and again.

Our list should look like this:

Check out new TN death index (online TSLA)
Join NGS-L
Check Family Search for new records

Not:
Check TN Death Indexes for John Gee
Check TN Death Indexes for Jane Doe
Check TN Death Indexes for Rebecca Smith
Check TN Death Indexes for Susie Allen

Well you get the idea, it took longer to make the list than the checking would take.
Yes, a to do list can help you to be productive. If you can automate the process, say with a good genealogy program, you can be a little more specific (I use Swift To Do List to help keep up with my genealogy to do list and TMG to keep up with my individual tasks). If you are writing them out, you might want to be a little more broad so that you can actually get something accomplished. But don’t get bogged down in the list. The place you want to spend your time and energy on is the doing.

So you ask, did I get anything done on my list today? Yup, just need to get ready for bed. The rest is all done, checked off, and I am working on tomorrow’s list. Didn’t do much on my genealogy to do list though. For some reason it just grows and grows and grows.

Hope you have another good genealogy day. And stay productive

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