In my previous post, I wrote about the value of a weekly checklist. This post is about how to put that list together.
But first, let me acknowledge two principles I picked up from David Allen in Getting Things Done:
- The need to write it down. He emphasizes this principle. Get it out of your head and onto paper (or in your device).
- The difference between tasks and projects. A task is one action. A project is anything with more than one action. (This distinction is important as you list steps.)
[Disclaimer: What I will describe below is not a full following of the GTD system, although I use GTD for many non-repetitive tasks.]
Let me also explain that I personally prefer paper. I use the computer for many things, including my calendar. But for task lists, there’s something helpful to me about a piece of paper that actually takes up space on my desk and that can get checked/scratched off. You may prefer to implement this in a program/app if that works better for you.
This could seem like an easy process, but several challenges stand in the way.
- The temptation to be complicated. Simple works. Work to simplify your list so it is usable.
- The temptation to keep the status quo. It could be tempting to just keep on doing things in the same inefficient way you’ve been doing them… by memory. But instead, start investing time in a system that helps you move more quickly through tasks so you have more time for other service.
Now, to the process I used for developing the simple, usable checklist.
The key is to make it structured yet flexible.
Here’s what I mean:
- Journal what you do in the project. Take the time to write down each step as you go through the process one week. Be specific to the level of individual steps. But don’t worry… it doesn’t have to be perfect this time. You’ll see why later. Keep it simple. Break it down to as small a step as you need.
- Type a simple sheet listing the specific tasks (individual actions) – Use bullet points for a place to check. If there is a step that needs several reminders, use subpoints.
- Print 2 copies. I think this step is key to making a list that works. The temptation would be to print a lot of copies, as if you’ve got the perfect list. But printing only a couple of copies allows for the next step.
- As you use the list to guide your work for the next 2 weeks, pencil in any tasks you come across that you left off the list. It’s inevitable that you forgot something as you first jotted down the process. Write down what you forgot. These new tasks will make the next printing.
- After 2 weeks, add new tasks to the document. Type in the new tasks in the appropriate place on the sheet. You may have also thought of a better order for your steps as you’ve used your list. Make those changes also.
- Print several more. I usually only print 4 at a time. Again, this allows me to adapt to the changes that come from learning as well as new tasks that come at me.
- Repeat process. Always use the list, and always add new items or take off out-of-date items every 3 or 4 weeks.
I have used this system for one specific section of my office duties for four months and, as a result, have been able to build a solid list that eases my mind, helps me accomplish the tasks, and helps me know when I can move on to other areas of responsibility.
Action: Pick one area of ministry in which you have weekly responsibilities. Journal what you do each week, and make a list that will help you know when that area of work is accomplished.
Do you have a similar or different process for remembering weekly tasks?
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Thanks for the helpful post. I will be sharing this with others.
Hey, Mark! Thanks for the great post. I have benefited a lot from GTD as well. One thing . . . can you give us a concrete example of a specific task you have applied this process to? We’re always trying to be more productive for the Kingdom!
Sure. I used this process for putting together a weekly task list for some church finances tasks.
For example, I have sheet entitled “Finances Task Checklist.” It is broken down into the subsections First tasks (a few examples of tasks under this are input bills, retrieve reimbursement receipts, and several others), after checks are signed (eg. mail bills), after deposits, and tasks that occur less than weekly.
I also put subpoints under some of these tasks with some extra reminders.
That’s not exhaustive for security reasons, but I hope it gives you an idea.
First, thanks for the post.
Second, ha ha– “for security reasons” Mark says this while wearing his sunglasses, black suit and tie, and carrying his 9mm! Thanks for the laugh!
All joking aside, great post!