There is no single successful individual that I follow who does not keep a daily to-do list or a notebook to write things down. Whether it’s a small spiral pad in your back pocket or an app on your smart phone, use it daily and you’ll see how your reality changes overnight (caveat: there’s no such thing as overnight success).
All my mentors swear by this habit.
I adopted it almost three years ago. Back in early 2013, I had the most basic of it. I adapted it as I went along. With time, it became more complex.
Now I keep a daily list, a monthly list, a long-term to-do list, a travel to-do list, a list for anything.
How I do it and how it impacted my life and my productivity? This is what you’re about to find out.
I got into writing things down about a year after I started on the habit of reading everyday. It was a result of that.
I always hated reading and I mocked people who claimed to do so.
What an irony! From running away from books to making them an integral part of my daily life…
I mostly read non-fiction, practical books and personal development books at first. Then I became more specific.
Some of the first ones I read were written by Brian Tracy. In his materials, he always drew attention to the importance of writing down goals and ideas daily.
It took a while until I humbly started doing it. A year or so…
Before getting into the nitty gritty, I have to say that I cannot image how I could live my life until late 2012 without having some outside (of my brain) form of organization for everything I do.
Seriously now, I could, under no circumstances, have ever achieved anything of what I achieved ever since had I not adopted this habit (of writing things – everything – down).
Meeting many of my mentors, writing 4 books, traveling abroad, improving my health and my relationships are just to name a few…
These would still be in the realm of dreams had I not adopted this habit…
I remember I started by writing down items for my shopping list. I used ColorNote. I still do.
It’s very similar to EverNote, though not as popular. It’s free and it has all the basic features you need.
Two of the most important features of this note taking app are:
- Its backup feature which syncs with your cloud accounts (Facebook) and it synchronizes every time you modify something in your notes.
So once you have something written down, you can lose your phone, delete your app or anything along these lines because if you still have access to your account cloud your notes are safe and sound.
- The second feature is the password protection that can be applied to individual note threads. So, in the event that your phone gets stolen and your notes are password protected, they will be safe…
Now, let me be more specific in how I use it.
As I was telling you earlier, I started by simply putting down items for my grocery list.
It was only one thread…it felt odd (the images you see have been created for explanation process – they are similar but not the same as my real notes).
My life back then was as organized as any life can be when you only rely on your memory for keeping track of things. It would be silly to do so in the world of today where we can use the power of technology to store everything that we should not fill our minds with. And let our minds deal with the most important of things…
In the past I wrote that you can only keep ~7 chunks of data in your short term memory.
Given that you’re always exposed to environmental stimuli, given that your mind may wander from thought to thought, it’s almost impossible to think that one can achieve/have/live a successful life by relying on memory alone. Ask me about it?! It’s a delusion…
For reference, my currently weekly to-do list holds more than 100 items that I constantly update. How could I actively keep that in my mind alone?
For simplicity of understanding and ease of use, in ColorNote, you have threads, items inside the threads, and an archive that you can store threads not currently in use. Here are some illustrations for better insight.
When you do something for the first time, it feels very odd: name it adopting a new skill, going to a new place, meeting a new person, etc. Unless you force yourself through a couple of weeks of daily repetition, you may not develop a habit out of that thing…
When you engage in something new, your brain forms a new neural circuitry. It’s like making a path in an ever-green jungle. Unless you cut through vegetation everyday for a couple of weeks, it keeps growing back and you’re never able to make a road out of it.
Same thing happens inside your mind.
If you create a new neural circuit it’s gonna be a weak connection at first. You have to activate it everyday for a couple of weeks so that current starts flowing easier and the connections start becoming stronger. After the connections are solid, you have a new habit. It will be easier to sustain and improve it…
That’s how I did with driving, with kickboxing, with dancing, with writing, with swimming, with quitting smoking and with many other good habits that are part of my life and bad habits that I removed.
Back to ColorNote and writing down things everyday…
It felt odd to open the ColorNote app at first. It had nothing in it, no threads, and very few items.
Sometimes I went days without opening it. But slowly, I started putting my tomorrows 3 most important things to do in it.
I had a reason to revisit the app everyday. The rest is kind of history…
From 1 single thread – tomorrow’s three main goals – I started opening other threads, like books to read, places to visit, birthdays of friends, etc.
Then I continued with weekly todos, monthly todos and long-term plans…
Then I added some motivational threads and a motivation quote at the top of my tomorrow’s thread…I always kept improving and updating them.
The Basics of Tomorrow’s Thread
From the three items, I started to add more stuff, such as daily habitual stuff, like:
read for 30 minutes,
share some post from the blog,
meet with x for coffee,
take out the trash,
you name it…
Then I started numbering these items for better organization.
It was like a time flow of the following day.
so on so forth…
Whenever an activity was completed, I added a yes or done or just a sign to that line in the thread. The dopamine rush and the reward I felt probably made me stick to this habit.
My tomorrow’s to-do list is done a night earlier. My weekly to-do list is done every Sunday evening.
I always modify them and whenever something crosses my mind I always put it down. Even if it’s just a passing and unimportant thought…
It helps me filter through my ideas. I can have dozens of good ideas everyday. Unless I put them down, there’s a great chance of not thinking about them every again.
So, my weekly list is in accordance (updated) with my daily list.
And there are many habitual activities that I do every week. I only check them (sign them) at the end of the week.
At the end of each day and of each week I watch in retrospect what I accomplished and what I have not.
Often times I don’t accomplish an activity from the very first time I put it on a list. No problem. I just put a no to that line and I push it into tomorrow’s to-do list. As long as it’s written down, I almost always complete it — eventually.
Very few items escape or are erased from my lists…
This is a basic, mostly introductory, short post on some of the ways that I organize my life with. If there’s something you’d like me to give you more insight into, please let me know and I’ll gladly do so. Think about it, I have a 3 year old experience with writing down goals everyday. I may be of some help…