Join Suzanna Kaye for an in-depth discussion in this video Using a multicolumn list for batching, part of Managing To-Do Lists.
- A popular concept in the productivity field is called batching. Batching is essentially using blocks of time to do only one type of task. For example, spending one hour to answer emails and nothing else. This requires you to have a list sorted by task type. One of the biggest challenges with a paper list is that this type of sorting is very cumbersome. If you use one long list, every type of task is mixed together, from computer work to errands. If you separate your tasks into multiple lists, this means shifting papers to find the right one and keeping track of all those lists.
My favorite solution is a multi-column list using graph paper or a program like Microsoft Excel. I adapted this idea from a podcast by Stever Robbins from the Get-It-Done Guy. This method allows me to quickly add items to only one list, but still easily see what group they fall into. Let's look at an example of a multi-column batched list. I used graph paper to make it easy to create checkboxes and view corresponding tasks. On this list, I have all my tasks on the far-left column of the paper.
I then created columns of task types and locations. Each task has an empty checkbox to the right of it under the associated column. For example, to the right of write speech I have an empty checkbox under computer. You can place a checkbox in more than one column, as well. To the right of buy label tape, I have an empty checkbox under errands, office supply store, and general store, because I could purchase it in either location depending on which is easier.
Once a task is completed, mark each empty checkbox associated with it. When you enter a new task, you can simply add it to the bottom of the list, and add any associated checkboxes in the appropriate columns. When you batch your time, it's easy to glance down a column and view everything within that type. When I make phone calls, I can easily look down the phone column to see all tasks I can complete during this time. If you use the Top 3 Highlighting Method I discussed in a previous movie, you can quickly determine the top three priorities within that column and highlight those.
Graph paper is one useful tool for this method of list-making, but it can also easily be completed in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. This method makes it easy to delete completed tasks from the master list at the end of the day. So you can avoid rewriting the entire list each time it gets messy. With Excel, you can print your list and handwrite new tasks as you think of them. Typing them into the list at the end of the day if they've not been completed. No matter which tool you use, a multi-column list can take the headache out of a long paper list.
This is a useful method for simple list types, but if what if your paper list also needs to track updates, delegation, and more complex information? In the next movie, I talk about using index cards to track more complex tasks and projects.