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No list is a good list

Today, writing about productivity makes me feel like a fraud; I spent this afternoon trying to convince a co-worker that his Sunday roast could be improved by putting the gravy through a Soda Stream. Low key mischief does not appear on my to-do list but, as usual, I could not help myself.

Recently, I’ve been playing around with some of Mark Forster’s ‘no list’ time management systems. If you’re unfamiliar with them, the term ‘no list’ is a bit confusing. The systems usually revolve around a list, but it is tiny and temporary. This encourages you to focus on what you’re achieving, rather than beating yourself up over what you might achieve if you had five years with no interruptions and an army of personal assistants all hopped up on amphetamines.

The theory seems great, but if you’ve been using a catch-all list for a while, working without a continuous record of your tasks is disconcerting. There’s the feeling that something important will get overlooked, and in my case, it quickly did. However, I have now found a compromise that works for me. It’s an approach my wife calls ‘minimal-list’.

I maintain three lists which track just enough to keep my life on the rails. These are: ‘things I’m waiting for’, ‘things waiting for me’ and ‘errands’. They allow me to keep tabs on my obligations, help me perform effective follow up, and stop me running out of toilet paper, all with minimum organisational overhead. I only add a task to one of these lists if it’s important and I fear that I won’t remember otherwise, so they never contain more than half a dozen items.

I don’t work directly from the lists, but use them as reminders in the same way that I use my calendar. I check them once in the morning and once more in the afternoon to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. This keeps them in their place and leaves me free to use a ‘no-list’ system for my everyday work.

That is my productivity tip for today. My cookery tip for today is: if a sauce is too watery, you can use cat litter to soak up excess moisture, and it adds a pleasant crunch to every bite.*

You can read more about No List systems on Mark Forster’s blog.



*This is a joke. Sieve out the lumps.**

**This is also a joke. Leave the kitty litter out of the carbonara.


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