This was originally posted on kimschoenherr.wordpress.com on April 03, 2011.
I don’t make to-do lists. To me, a to-do list is a list of things that you could get done at some point in time. There are no “to-do by” dates, it’s just a list of tasks, that you need to do, at some point. I tried to keep a to-do list last year. It was one page, with a number of tasks written on it – things I needed to buy, places I needed to go, and assignments I needed to get done. As I finished each task, I crossed it off the list. Things would be crossed off as time progressed, and eventually, I moved on to a second page.
The problem was, there were a few things on my list that just sat there, waiting to be crossed off. By the time I stopped writing the list, I still had “write a chapter” at the third spot on the list, along with a smattering of other to-dos that never got to-done. At a loss for what to do, I spent some time without a list, forgetting assignments and spending a lot of time running back and forth to the store, getting things that I forgot to get. I realized that I needed something, but a to-do list wasn’t it.
My self-motivating solution was goal lists. “You have to do this” sounds a lot like an order to me, but a goal is just that – a goal. It’s something that I want to do by a certain time in order to not feel like a failure. I have a daily goal list, a weekly goal list, yearly goals, life goals, and a bucket list.
I almost always put my daily goal list on my facebook (I should probably start using my twitter for more than just Foursquare updates). Right now it says “writing a blog and working in Indesign.” Those are my daily goals. I’m going to finish this blog, and I’m going to work on some of the things for my portfolio (so I can actually get something up here). This usually includes assignments that are due the next day, or things that I just want to do.
My weekly goals are mostly just things that I want to finish by the end of the week. When I was working on getting this blog set up, I was in the middle of a busy week, so I decided that if I was ever going to finish it, I would need to put all of the trivial things out of my mind – like playing games and going out – buckle down, and get it done. I was done with it two days early because of my goal list. This week, I made it a goal to finish my resume before Sunday. At 2 AM, I finished my resume. Two versions, actually. It gives me a sense of pride to accomplish my goals.
Yearly goals are things more like “get this internship” or “graduate in December” or “move out by March of next year”. Obviously, yearly goals are dependent on what happens to be going on at the moment they are happening. Obviously I won’t be able to move out in March if I don’t have a full-time job by January, but that’s part of the goal. Yearly goals are also obviously different because they aren’t hinged on December 31st like weekly goals are hinged on Sunday, they’re more abstract.
But not as abstract as life goals. Life goals are things like “get married by 26″ and “have kids by 30″ and “work in this position at this company”. These are completely different from my bucket list goals, which have nothing to do with a time limit, other than my life. My bucket list is more like a to-do list than anything else. It’s things like “go to Paris” and “write a book”. It’s things I want to do eventually, but I’m not going to put a time limit on it.
That’s how I reach my goals. I know a to-do list works for a lot of people, but if you’re not one of them, try a goals list. It really is a complete change.