To-do Lists, part 2:
I really love the to-do list system I currently use. It’s based in the Google Doc that I also use to write blog post drafts. The system is nothing more than a bunch of lines at the top of the document (i.e. “change Apria Healthcare to DreamWear Monday 8am” or “print out Healthy Habits”). Once I’m done with a task, the line is deleted forever.
The reason that these lines work so well is because I open the document very often. This allows me to glance over and be aware of what’s to be done without giving too much thought. This way, the Zeigarnik effect is minimalized. As an added bonus, since Google Docs allows offline editing, I can jot down items or modify existing ones whenever and wherever.
For items that have a deadline (i.e. filling out weekly EPAM timesheets, managing monthly subscriptions), I use Google Calendar events. The ability to set recurring events is a blessing and makes keeping things in order so much easier.
However, even with this great system, I still suffer from the Zeigarnik effect. My dad claims I worry too much and he is right. One example is meetings. Even trivial ones, like an evening walk with an OKCupid date, can cause lots of stress. I fret constantly about being late or possibly doing something wrong (i.e. “should I leave at 6:40pm or 6:45pm?”). Other things I fret about leaving unfinished are as varied as blog posts, TV shows and word puzzles.
My fretting & worrying might have some small benefits (i.e. cause me to finish my work tasks faster than all the other contractors on my team and make my Google manager pleased), but the net effect is bad. Reading the Clive Thompson WIRED article has strengthened my resolve to stop worrying so much. There’s no clear path forward, but when there’s a will, there’s a way.