The 2 minute paper list

Author: Tom Swift

Hi everyone; Mike again,

I thought I'd take a minute today to write a little about one of the methods I use to try and get the most from each day, I call it (and so do many others) "The 2 minute paper list".

You'll find throughout your career that certain people just seem to be able to get more done. They seem to have more quality family time but still get what appears to be an astronomical amount of work done. This isn't because they have some form of time machine, have super powers or simply drink lots of coffee. It’s because each day they make a plan, they prioritise the plan and throughout the day reassess the plan and adjust accordingly.

One of the key things you'll probably find if you sat over their shoulder is that they normally get the hardest job out of the way first. Before you say anything, I understand the logic of getting all of the small jobs done first, it generates lots of ticks on your list and if you finish your day without a complete list, at least you've got lots of ticks...right? Yes, you have the feel good factor of lots of ticks but if your toughest job still remains, guess what you have waiting for you the next day which is now just a little more trust me when I say that real time wizards get the hardest job done first. This is a topic all of its own which I'll go in to in another post but for the moment, lets focus on the 2 minute paper list.

It’s always difficult to find the time to complete things and more often than not, if you have a to-do list you'll be adding things to it daily and hopefully completing things to....but I'll bet that sometimes you can leave the office with the list being bigger than when you arrived.

Nowadays most people like to keep lists digitally and whilst this does make sense, there is a lot to be said for a good old fashioned paper list.

Why a paper list? easy! if you are like me, you spend a massive amount of time in front of your PC hammering away at the keyboard but unless you have an amazingly powerful machine (or several of them)'ll always get breaks where the PC needs a reboot or its completing a big process and slows a little, you’re the first in a meeting and have to wait for the others to arrive and during this time you can become impatient and slightly frustrated. I've even been known to work on 2 pc's at the same time, whilst one was completing a task and slowed I'd then use the other to catch up on emails etc.

Whilst the above can work, you'll find as I did that you will leave the office feeling tired and also that whilst you've done a massive amount of work...your to-do list hasn't really gone down that much.

This is where the 2 minute paper list comes in to its own. If you're going to add a task to your to-do today list check to see if it actually needs your PC. i.e. I need to talk to a colleague about an insurance proposal that’s come through the door, I need to touch base with a client about a project, I need to call a supplier to ensure a delivery is going to arrive, I need to reconnect with friend etc. These are all things which could actually be done without you staring at your screen and you technically don’t need a device to remind you about them i.e. you don’t need to boot anything up to simply view the list.

So when you are sat waiting for others to attend a meeting, or your PC’s on a go slow…pick up your 2 minute paper list and get cracking. As this list is filled with short tasks you should find that whittling away at the list is easy, you’re away from your PC and screens and when home time eventually are left with a simple piece of paper on your desk which you can hopefully pop in the bin as every item is done.

Granted this may not seem like much but it’s both visual and physical. It does take some getting used to as people I’ve seen try this do sometimes end up using the 2 minute list as their “jobs to do today” list and whilst this has value, it does mean that 2 minute jobs which don’t require a computer are cluttering your general list, you’ll end up reprioritising too much and you’re day will get tougher.

OK the 2 minute paper list may not work for you but since I've been using my 2 minute paper list I’m happier when I go home, I know I’ve got more done and I appreciate what I have done providing just that little bit more satisfaction when I go home.

If you give it a go please let me know as I'd love to hear your experiences, good or bad!

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