Organize your life and yourself with to-do lists

Organize your life and yourself with to-do lists

You can find a lot of conflicting advice online on whether you should keep lists in your life to organize yourself better or not, and why they work and why they don’t. You shouldn’t bother with that at all. Because the AgileLeanLife Framework isn’t only a bunch of to-do lists. It’s a carefully constructed philosophy and system that will help squeeze every single drop of productivity from you and your every single day. In a positive way, of course, since it may sound a little bit harsh.

The fact is that an important part of the AgileLeanLife Framework are lists. Visual lists where possible, text lists where not. They’re very important on all levels – strategic level (Your Vision Backlog), tactical level (Your 100 Days Backlog) and operational level (Your Sprint Backlog and Daily 3T). There are also a few sub-lists that you should keep as part of your productivity system because they will help you organize yourself even more and stop you from feeling overwhelmed. In this blog post, you’ll also find many recommendations for every list you should keep, eliminating most (if not all) disadvantages of keeping to-do lists. If you follow the rules and recommendations, there’s nothing you have to worry about.

Besides the key lists you should keep, this article will also give you many ideas for other lists to keep that will help you stay organized and never forget anything in life (other lists). All the lists may make it sound like an overwhelming system at first and too many lists to even start with, but we’ll break everything down step by step. You should also have as much fun as possible when doing this. After all, you’re planning your life and your future.

Remember that one hour of proper planing can safe you hours in execution phase.

The first time, it may take you an entire weekend to set up the system but once you have the system up and running, maintaining the system shouldn’t take a lot of your time. I can guarantee you that with this system in place, you’ll be excited every day when you wake up to start moving the post-it notes on your Kanban board into the “Done” section. It’s not only fun – the system will also help you implement your superior life strategy into everyday life. As we’ve mentioned many times, you must have a superior system if you want to live an extraordinary life.

In order to have realistic expectations, maintain your system and keep it up to date, you’ll need approximately:

  • One day (8 hours) every half-year to update your vision list (end of December and end of June are the best months to do it) and do major updates to all the lists you keep.
  • Half a day (4 hours) every quarter (every 100 days) to update your 100 Days Backlog
  • One flow (2 hours) every 14 days to prepare your Sprint Backlog, do introspection and do minor updates on the other lists you keep (Sunday afternoons or Monday mornings are best)
  • 15 minutes every morning on working days

That’s around 150 hours of planning per year, out of the 8760 you have available (1.7 %). If you don’t know where to start, always remember that you must start with your life vision. That’s the most important thing you should do in order to manage your life better. A clearly defined vision will give you a clear picture of why you were born and an enormous amount of motivation. Then you continue by prioritizing your vision list, selecting your priorities for the next quarter and breaking them down into 14- day sprints. It’s very easy once you master it. You should also always adjust the system to your personal preferences (that’s the key point of the agile and lean life, search what fits you best), keep the things that work and pivot from the things that don’t. All you need is a minimum viable experience to decide if you should keep something or not.

Now let’s get back to lists to clarify any additional doubts whether lists (text lists, visual boards etc.) really work or not. How lists will help you be organized:

  • It’s the best way to manage your life (if you do it the right way)
  • You’ll easily break down your big goals into items and items into tasks
  • You’ll see the woods and the trees (with the right system in place)
  • You’ll set your priorities more easily
  • You can measure progress more easily
  • You’ll free your brain and get more mental bandwidth
  • You won’t be forgetting things
  • You’ll definitely manage your time better

Lists, especially visualized ones, bring a lot of value into your personal organization system. But there are definitely also many traps you should avoid when it comes to lists. In order to help you avoid making some common mistakes, let’s look at the biggest ones you can make when using lists:

  • Not taking the time to plan and regularly update your lists. Make sure you timebox your planning time in your personal calendar in advance. Schedule your time for planning for the half year in advance until the next vision review. Remember that proper planning can save you many hours of execution, so always take time for planning.
  • Having too many items on the list. Too many items put additional pressure on you, especially because of the paradox of choice. The more choices you have, the harder you decide where to start. That’s why it’s really important to have additional sub-lists presented in the article and to limit your work in progress (WIP) on your Kanban board. Additionally, choose only 3 tasks you can perform in the flow for a particular day. Limits are extremely important in the AgileLeanLife Framework, so always respect your personal limits. Don’t only have a list with a bunch of tasks.
  • Starting with easy tasks. Your tasks should always be prioritized and reordered after every retrospection, based on the adjustments of your goals, the feedback from your environment, the changes in your desires and needs, and so on. You should follow the philosophy Eat that frog and start with the most difficult task on your list once you adjust your plans.
  • Not seeing the woods. Before planning every sprint as well as before preparing your 100 Days Plan, you have to put your items into the right context. You don’t just do things – you know why you’re doing things in life. The best way to see things in the right perspective is by regularly revising your vision list and performing retrospection. You always need to start with your life vision and your whys. And after every action, you have to do retrospection to adjust your actions and behaviors. The idea is to be proactive, not reactive, with your plans, and to stay flexible and constantly adjust by analyzing what’s happening with you and your environment. Retrospective time can be part of your planning or you can schedule separate blocks of time for it.
  • The idea of lists isn’t to micromanage yourself. If you have to refill your stapler, don’t put it on your lists. Think less about smaller tasks and more about experiences, improvements, outputs, stories (also known as items) that you break down into tasks you can perform in a 2-hour working flow.
  • Boring list. If you see a long list of things you should do, you can easily get bored. In that case, you’ve missed the point of the whole thing. You haven’t set the right vision and mission for yourself. When you define the right vision and mission, your planning and lists are not a source of boredom but excitement.

There are several ways of keeping your lists in check. You can use a pen and paper. You can use a desktop software or a digital notepad. Many online applications are available. Wikimedia is also a good way to keep all of your lists. You have to test, try and experiment what works best for you. Only one thing is really important. Your Personal Sprint must either be visualized on a board or you should use an online system like Kanbanery. A board is a much better option, if you can use it.

When you’re in doubt about which tool to use for any list, follow the rule to visualize as much as possible. For example, your vision list can be a catalogue of only pictures of what you want to experience in life (travel destinations, things to own, roller‑coasters to ride, animals to see, things to master and create, style to acquire and so on).

To Do Lists

A Course of Action Folder and the List of Lists

As I already mentioned, there are many ways of running your personal management and task systems. But to be more practical, a very popular way to do it is with a digital notepad like Evernote or Onenote in combination with a lean tool like Kanbanery. I used to be a big fan of Evernote and did use it as part of my digital brain, but it has become too complex and slow. They try to be everything instead of just being a good notebook. So I use the simple Notepad (don’t be surprised) in combination with Kanbanery. Even if there are many lists you have to keep, you should try to keep the system as simple as possible and always at your disposal.

Whatever you decide for, make a folder named Course of Action or COA or pick any other name you want (it’ll be your master folder for keeping the lists in one place) and start creating lists inside the map. Another little trick is to put a number in front of the list if you want to order them differently than by the first letter of the file name (for example, 1 Vision Backlog, 2 100 Days Backlog, 3 Not to-do list etc.).

There are several different lists (and a few sub-lists) you should keep in order to stay organized to the maximum on a daily basis, while also keeping the macro perspective on what you want to achieve in life and where you want to go. Here they are (T – Can be only bullet points, V – Visualized on the board):

  • (T and V) Vision Backlog – List of all the things you want to experience in life and why you want to experience them. There are also two sub-lists you should keep:
  • (T) The 100 days Backlog – Your quarterly plan (approximately 100 days and 7 sprints) with priorities selected from the vision backlog and the source of tasks for your bi-weekly sprints.
    • (T) List of pains and gains
  • (V) Personal Sprint Backlog – All the tasks you’ll perform in your single sprint or, if you want, in the next 14 days visually presented on the Kanban board.
  • (V) Daily 3T List – The three most important tasks from your Personal Sprint Backlog for a specific day that you decide for in your morning meeting. The three tasks are planned for 3 flows that last approximately 2 hours. That should be your plan for every day.
  • (L) Not-to-do list – A list that helps you stay focused and do tasks with the most impact.
  • (L) Other lists – All other lists that help you organize yourself and keep as many things as possible on paper in order to keep your brain power for more important things than keeping lists in your head. Examples of those kind of lists are personal improvement lists, grocery shopping lists, anti-shopping lists, reading lists, and so on.

Just so you don’t get confused: a backlog is only a fancy name for a list. So you can call it a list or a backlog or you can find any other term that sounds better to you. Be flexible.

AgileLeanLife ToDoLists Infographics

Vision Backlog or Vision List

As already mentioned, you should always start planning your future life by making your personal Vision Backlog. Always start with a vision. If you don’t know what you want out of life, there’s no need for planning at all. Starting with a vision isn’t perfect. With experience, you may find that you don’t even like what you thought you wanted, you definitely have to stay flexible on when and how you’ll experience things and adjust to the happenings in your environment. But you still have to start planning your life by looking deep into your soul and honestly listing what you want experience in life and what you think you like. When you try it, you will know.

You should see the world as a playground with unlimited opportunities for growing, enjoying and creating, especially with positive energies and in collaboration with other people.

There are three questions that should help you define your Vision Backlog. You should keep around 50 – 70 items in your Priority Vision Backlog. For every item, you should also write a short statement on why you want to achieve or experience that particular thing. Here are the three questions:

  • Who do you want to become (your personal evolution)?
  • What do you want to experience in life (and how to enjoy it)?
  • What kind of a legacy do you want to leave (what will you create)?

Your vision backlog should always empower you and give you motivation when you’re feeling down. Your life vision is like your compass that helps you follow your true North. Of course a part of your Vision Backlog should also be a list of all the things you’ve already achieved (your accomplishment list), but more about that later. It feels good when you look at a list that shows what you’ve already experienced in life and what else you want to live to see. It empowers you and helps you focus on the positive.

Here are some general rules for preparing your Vision Backlog:

  • Keep around 50 – 70 items on your Priority Vision Backlog (100 really is the maximum). You don’t keep tasks, but items (experiences, outputs, new behavioral patterns etc.).
  • You can help yourself prepare the Vision Backlog with the three questions listed above, but also by searching for “bucket lists” in search engines. You’ll find many ideas by analyzing what other people want to experience.
  • The Vision Backlog is not about tasks, but about experiences, creating things, and improving yourself. The most important question is what would you regret on your deathbed?
  • It should be prioritized (the best way is to have three categories: 1 – Must experience: Priority, 2 – It would be good to experience, 3 – maybe someday).
  • You should stay completely flexible about your priorities and what to put on your 100 Days Backlog (from the strategic to tactical level), depending on the opportunities you currently have in life. You never know what life has prepared for you, what you personally want to happen first doesn’t matter. For example, if an ideal opportunity comes up for you to experience something that isn’t your top priority but is a high enough priority, stay flexible. You can’t plan your life in a linear way.
  • Update your Vision Backlog at least every half-year (your needs and desires keep changing as does your environment).

Here you can find an example of my vision list (without sub lists). Your Vision Backlog should have two sub-lists:

Maybe someday list

If you’re a curious human being and want to experience many things in life, your Vision Backlog can quickly become too long and you can start feeling overwhelmed by the notion that there won’t be enough time for everything you want to experience in life.

Well, first of all, there definitely won’t. You should accept the fact that even if you fight hard, you’ll probably experience around 70 – 80 % of the things you want to experience. If you really keep yourself organized to the full. But hey, that’s more than enough.

Secondly, you should always prioritize your vision backlog. As mentioned you should divide all the items into three categories. That will help you see that you don’t have to experience everything and help you keep your priorities in check while staying flexible about what life has prepared for you.

  • Must experience – Priority Vision List (ordered list with priorities)
  • Would be good to experience (ordered list with priorities)
  • Maybe someday

The “maybe someday” list as part of your Vision Backlog should prevent your Vision Backlog from becoming overwhelming. There are definitely some things for which you aren’t 100 % sure whether you want to experience them in life or not (they do sound nice though) or they aren’t that important that you would really regret not doing them on your deathbed.

So you can simply keep a “maybe someday” list to stop burdening yourself too much with all the things that exist in the world. If one day, you decide that you want to experience something from this list, you put it on your “must experience” or “would be good to experience” part of your Vision Backlog. Or, if you change your mind and convince yourself that you don’t need to experience that particular thing, you simply delete it. When you get an idea to put on your vision list, first put it on this part of your Vision Backlog and then when you have the Vison Backlog Planning and retrospection for the next half-year, decide about the real priority of your new item. That will help you keep track of all ideas that come to your mind and you won’t have to reorder your vision list every day.

Past accomplishments list

Hopefully you’ll constantly be achieving things in life. Even more hopefully they’ll be the ones you want to achieve in life and consequently you’ll be able to cross them off your Vision Backlog. Keeping track of all the things you’ve already done presents almost no additional effort and it can be very valuable. First of all, it feels awesome to see what you’ve already experienced and created in life and how you’ve improved. It gives you the motivation to experience and achieve even more. It can also help you when you’re preparing your CV, motivating your team members, and so on.

The past accomplishments list becomes even more handy when your self-esteem goes down or you feel bad after a failure or a setback in life. You should simply look at this list, just to remind yourself that you’re a winner and that you have many past accomplishments. Looking at your past accomplishments list should definitely motivate you and put you back on the right track.

To Do Lists Postit

100 Days Backlog

In business and politics, there is the so-called period of the first 100 days, where the new leader (the US president, for example) has a chance to prove himself. In these 100 days, a leader should set a new, better course for the organization, bring new positive momentum to the environment, identify and mitigate the biggest risks, build the dream team, and so on. The first 100 days with a new leader are crucial for long-term success of an organization. It seems like the DNA of the organization is formed in the first 100 days (culture, processes, new rules etc.) under a new leadership and it can’t be so easily changed in the future. It’s no different in your personal life.

Well, first of all, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you get new 100 days after every 100 days. Every 100 days, you have an opportunity to implement an upgraded and updated tactical plan. That’s also the bad news, in a way. You can’t just fight for the first 100 days and then hope that things will just take care of themselves and everything will be alright. Every 100 days is time for new improved tactics, prioritizing, reflection, and taking the upcoming 100 days deadly seriously. Like they’re the first 100 days. Every time. Every 100 days.

Your 100 Days Backlog (7 sprints or Quarterly Focus if you want) is the connection between your Vision Backlog, your Personal Sprints and your 3T Daily Tasks. Looking at your Vision Backlog, you should decide, on the tactical level, which life areas should be your focus for the next 3 months by considering your life vision, your current situation, new opportunities and changes in the environment, your new desires and feelings, feedback from your teammates and other people, and so on.

Based on your 100 days focus, you should prepare a backlog, which is basically the package of all the activities (items) you plan to accomplish in the upcoming 100 days/three months. Out of the 100 Days Backlog, you then choose tasks for each of your 14-day sprints.

Here are some general rules regarding your 100 Days Backlog:

  • Take 4 hours every 100 days to plan your quarterly focus. Mark it in your calendar in advance.
  • Do retrospection on your past 100 days. Analyze your actions, environment, people etc.
  • Carefully look at all items on your Vision Backlog and how they’re prioritized.
  • Prepare the 100 Days Backlog based on your findings from retrospection, vision list and other important factors, and prioritize the items.
  • Limit your 100 Days Backlog to approximately 15 – 30 items (outcomes, not tasks). Items are more about “what” and tasks are more about “how”. You then break down your items into tasks. An item is “Visiting Bangkok”, the tasks are all the things you need to do, from buying a plane ticket to packing your clothes. You can break bigger parts of your life vision into several items and then tasks. A vision can be to become a successful blogger. Your items for the next 100 days could be 15 articles, 5 links, 3 infographics, 100 new likes etc. Then you can break down items into tasks, like getting article ideas, writing a post-it note for every article, preparing the structure for infographics, designing infographics, publishing blog posts etc. But don’t micromanage yourself. Use your gut.
  • A general rule for an item is that it’s too big if you can’t achieve it in a few days (2 to 4 days). But there are exceptions (like traveling, ongoing activities and similar tasks). If possible, you should break bigger items on your Vision Backlog into smaller, manageable items. Slice and dice.
  • Reinforce every why with the list of pains and gains if necessary (if you think you need additional motivation and you lack self-discipline).
  • For every item, mark if you’re in the search mode or in the execution mode (plan tasks and the measuring system accordingly).
  • Items aren’t tasks, but outcomes, experiences, behavioral patterns. You break items down into specific tasks in your sprint backlog.

Three different levels: Vision = Why?, Items = What?, Tasks = How?

List of pains and gains

As we said, you have to start planning your life with your life vision. But a life vision isn’t enough. You also need a strong why. Your vision must be empowered by a strong emotional mission. Only a powerful enough “why” will push you through all the obstacles and setbacks that you will meet on the path to realizing your vision.

There are three questions that can help you answer why for every item on your Vision Backlog. You can answer those in one sentence next to every item you have in your Vision Backlog.

  • Why would you fight for something?
  • Why would you invest your time and other resources?
  • Why does it matter to you?

But when an item comes from your Vision Backlog to your 100 Days Backlog, you may even want to reinforce your whys with additional motivation. You can do that with the list of pains and gains. In life, humans strive towards things that bring us pleasure and move away from what causes pain. If you have a clear picture of your pains and gains together with the outcome you want, it can give you an additional motivational boost.

Gains are simply all the benefits you will enjoy from achieving your goal. Pains are all the disadvantages you will suffer from if you don’t achieve your goal. That’s how you program your mind to go towards pleasure and stay away from pain in order to achieve your desired outcome more easily. But you have to be really honest about what the pains and gains for you are.

Practical examples

Let’s look at an example.

You have on your Vision Backlog that you want to have (what?) a body for the cover of Men’s Health and that you want to be able to run a marathon. You will achieve that by (how?) following a strict diet and exercise routine. Why do you want to achieve that? You want to be attractive to women and look good in the mirror. It’s “why” in one sentence next to the item (what?) in your Vision Backlog.

Now let’s say you decide to focus on this goal in the next 100 days, but you want to reinforce that why with a list of pains and gains for additional motivation. You would simply do a table with pains and gains.

I want to be super fit, because…

Gains Pains if I don’t achieve my goals…
I will be able to run a marathon I will feel all the fat when I sit down
I will look good in the mirror and be proud of my body I may suffer on my deathbed for years
I will be a good role-model for my kids I am always tired and without any motivation
I will have better sex I really hate my man boobs
I will be able to sleep better
I will be more attractive  
I will have more energy …  

Especially if your goal is connected with personal improvement and changing your behavioral patterns, you want to make sure that the gains that come with new behavior are much bigger than the gains you’re currently enjoying by keeping toxic behavioral patterns in your life. It may help you a lot to identify all the benefits you currently have. When you lose motivation, look at this list for help.

Let’s get back to our example. The gains I’m currently enjoying by being overweight:

  • I think I’ll have more energy if I eat more
  • I feel emotionally secure when I can eat however much I want and whatever I want
  • My friends accept me better if I eat fast food with them
  • I have so much to do, I don’t want to bother myself with what I eat …

Kanban board example

Personal Sprint Backlog (14 days to-do list)

Now you have your Vision Backlog. You’ve set a strategy for the next 100 days with your 100 Days Backlog. You’ve enforced your whys with a list of pains and gains where necessary. You’ve prioritized the items (outcomes) on your 100 Days Backlog. Now it’s time to plan your Personal Sprint Backlog.

The sprint is a 14-day period in the execution mode, where you work hard as hell to complete all selected items from your backlog. All selected items have to be broken down into tasks and visualized on your Kanban board. There has to be a post-it note for every task and throughout the two weeks, you move your tasks from “to-do” to “in progress” and “done” status. At the end of the sprint, all tasks should be done.

Similarly to your Personal Sprint Backlog, you could have a to-do list, but I really recommend visualizing your tasks with a Kanban board. If you don’t want to have a physical board in your life (office or living room or wherever), you can keep one electronically. One way to do it is with a software application like Kanbanery. The other good option are also notebook applications that have post-it notes integration.

There’s no higher philosophy here, except stay flexible. Don’t just do things, constantly ask yourself why. You have 7 sprints to complete your 100 Days Backlog. The important thing is that you visualize the sprint on the Kanban Board as well as cross off the items from your 100 Days Backlog when you complete them. That’s how your anti-to-do list is taking shape.

Recommendations for planning your Sprint Backlog:

  • Plan your sprint on Sunday evening or Monday morning every 14 days.
  • Plan it in your calendar in advance.
  • Do retrospection for your past sprint (you can either have a separate meeting with yourself for that immediately after finishing the sprint or you can join it with the next sprint planning).
  • Carefully look at your 100 Days Backlog and see what the priorities are.
  • Limit Work in Progress (WIP): Increase focus and set priorities, manage overload (keep enough margin). With the right amount of work in progress, you can be in the flow instead of facing anxiety or boredom.
  • Let me repeat that: limit work in progress, don’t put too many post-it notes on your board.
  • Select the items you’ll do in the next 14 days. You should select around 4 – 6 items that you break down into 20 – 30 tasks (you should have up to 30 post-it notes on your Kanban board).
  • The biggest amount of time for a task is something that can be achieved in a day, but the optimal size of a task is for it to be achieved in one flow.
  • Break items (traveling to Bangkok) down into tasks and prepare your post-it notes for every task (Book a flight, Buy Travel Guide, Find a Travel Buddy, Plan the Trip etc.).
  • Prepare your Kanban board for the next sprint.
  • Move post-it notes from “To-Do” to “In progress” and “Done”
  • That should give you around 150 tasks to be completed every 100 days. When you see 150 tasks finished, you’ll definitely feel awesome and super productive. And even more motivated for the upcoming 100 days.

Please consider that the number of items, tasks etc. are just estimates. You should adjust the math and the system to your personal preferences, your type of goals, tasks etc. What’s presented is just a general rule to help you break bigger items down into smaller tasks.

Never leave Sprint Retrospection out of your Sprint Planning. Never. In retrospection, you have to answer a few basic (but hard) questions:

  • What went well during the last sprint that I will continue doing?
  • What could I do differently?
  • How can I implement the change?

Based on that, you should make three decisions and stick to them:

  • What should I start doing?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I continue doing?

Your Anti-To-Do List

Much like your brain has poor capacity for remembering your past accomplishments, so it can also easily forget how much you’ve already done. Therefore, you should also keep a very clear anti to-do list in your COA system. The purpose of the Anti-To-Do List is to remind you how much you already did and to additionally motivate you when you feel you aren’t productive enough.

Your Anti To-do List consists of:

  • Post-it Notes that are in the Done section of your Kanban board in a specific sprint
  • Items crossed off from your 100 Days Backlog (do not delete them)
  • All the things you had to do in a specific day and weren’t planned, but they were urgent and important (you always have to stay flexible, but you must be extremely cautious about the kind of tasks or meetings you let slip on your to-do lists)

When you feel down and not productive enough, simply look at the list of what you’ve already done. Looking at your anti-to-do list can significantly help you with motivation if you’ve already done a lot but somehow forgotten it. Just be really careful that your anti-to-do list consists of tasks from your Sprint Planning, not just some minor unexpected tasks that you did to feel a little bit better and more productive.  Let anti-to-do list be your friend, not your enemy.

Daily 3T list

Every single day, you should start your working day with a morning meeting with yourself and then also do the same with your team, if you have it. Before every 15-minute morning meeting with yourself, you should never forget about your kick-off routine (morning rituals) that will fill you with energy, motivation, positivity and enthusiasm for the upcoming day. In fact, your 15-minute morning meeting with yourself should be a part of you daily kick-off routine.

The purpose of the morning meeting with yourself is to:

  • Be constantly connected to yourself and listen to your mind, body and emotions
  • Align your daily tasks and effort with your sprint and endgame
  • Keep momentum and motivation
  • Detect and consider roadblocks in the process you follow, and keep a flexible mentality
  • Focus yourself for the rest of your day

You simply perform your morning meeting by answering three simple questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What do I plan to do today? (Limited to three important things you can do in the flow …)
  • Is there anything preventing me from achieving my goals?
  • (plus) Putting a mark on your Happiness Chart

The morning meeting mustn’t be longer than 15 minutes and it must be performed at the same hour every working day.

In your daily morning meeting, you should look at your Kanban board and all the tasks in the To-Do and In-Progress section, and decide which three tasks are the most important for that day. Then you should focus your daily work on those three tasks.

If you want to stay really productive, your daily goal must be to have as much room as possible in your calendar for working in the flow. No unnecessary meetings, no unnecessary e-mails and “urgent” tasks. You should have the peace and quiet (emotional peace as well) to work and create in the flow, doing the tasks that are currently the most important and valuable in your life.

You should plan two flows (or ideally three flows) in a day, each of them taking two to three hours. Every flow should be reserved for one of the most important tasks from your sprint. So three daily tasks for three daily sprints. In the remaining time, you can handle all the urgent tasks, meetings, and so on.

Remember: you can strategize, plan and create all the cool boards you want, but if you don’t work hard every day, nothing will happen. There’s never enough time to do all the things, but there’s always enough time to do all the important things. Those are the things from your Vision Backlog, 100 Days Backlog and Sprint Backlog. Make time for them, focus yourself, everything else is probably nothing but waste.

You can find many ideas for how to empty your calendar to have enough time for the three flows in the Best time management guide ever.

Off-the-track list

You’ll definitely have many more tasks than just three to perform every day. Be it minor tasks, administration, unexpected urgent tasks, car repairs, shopping, a friend flying in from a faraway town, and so on. You should also keep a track of that kind of unplanned and unexpected tasks and minor things you have to do. The first recommendation would be to also put these kind of tasks on your anti to-do list, just to have a complete picture of how much you’ve already done.

Secondly, you have to make sure that off-the-track tasks don’t take up more than 10 – 25% of your daily time. There also shouldn’t be more than 25 % of unplanned and unexpected tasks on your anti to-do list. If you plan two 2-hour flows and one 3-hour flow, that means 7 hours of focused work daily. In addition to that, you have 1 to 2 hours for other urgent, unexpected and minor tasks, like e-mail. 2 hours out of 7 is a little bit more than 25 %, so now you know where the uppermost daily limits are.

I like to call this list the Off-the-track list, just to remind you that you aren’t doing the most valuable tasks. You shouldn’t feel bad or guilty or under any kind of pressure for performing these tasks, but only as long as the tasks on your Off-the track list stay at around 20% of your working time. I simply add Off-the-track post-it notes to my Kanban board under “done” every day.

Not-to-do list

We all live in turbulent environments, we all work on complex and demanding projects, and there are so many things to do and so many distractions. Therefore, it’s extremely hard to stay focused in life. One thing that can help you with that is a Not-To-Do List.

A not-to-do list is a list of tasks you simply don’t do, no matter what. You delete them, delegate them, outsource them or simply say no when they try to find their way onto your Sprint Backlog or Off-the-track List. A very well thought-out not-to-do list should help you to focus better, avoid distractions and only perform tasks that have the biggest impact on your value production and happiness in life.

Your not-to-do list can contain tasks like administration and other low-level tasks, activities you really hate or aren’t good at, and so on. The not-to-do list should help you to delegate and outsource better as well as to say no when necessary.

Other to-do lists

Other to-do lists

You should keep all other kinds of lists in your digital brain. You can get creative with that, but let me help you with a few ideas. Here are ideas for different lists you can keep in your COA folder:

  • A weekly home cleaning and maintenance schedule
  • Gift ideas
  • Things not to forget
  • Your business ideas list
  • Ideas on what to do with and for your spouse
  • Your shopping lists – like grocery shopping and other things you must buy
  • Personal improvement list (Kaizen list)

Among the lists mentioned above, I especially love to keep the following:

Kaizen list

Kaizen philosophy (always improve yourself) and growth mindset are important parts of the Agile and Lean Life. Consequently, an important list you should also have is a Kaizen list. It’s a list of prioritized potential improvements in your life, as identified by you and the people closest to you in your life.

A minimalist or anti-shopping list

A minimalistic mindset is extremely important for staying focused on things you really want to experience in life and removing all the waste from your life. An anti-shopping list can help you with that. It’s a simple list of things you don’t need anymore and plan on giving away, selling or dumping. It’s also a list of things you want to buy but simply won’t, because you prefer to be a producer rather than a consumer.

Much like it’s tempting to get seduced by distractions, so it’s sometimes hard to keep your shopping appetites in check. The idea is that if you have something on your anti-shopping list, you simply don’t even consider buying it. You relieve yourself of all the pressure. When you see that thing in a shop or a webstore, you just move on.

Reading list

Last but not least, your reading list. It should be one of your favorite lists and a part of your infostructure. It’s simply a list of books you want to read in life or in the upcoming period (you can use the Amazon Wishlist for that). Make sure that you cross a book off the list every two weeks or at least one per month.

Well, we’ve finally reached the end. We looked at more than 10 lists that will help you stay organized to the maximum. Don’t forget. Start with your life vision. When in doubt, visualize and simplify and stay flexible. Enjoy, grow and create. You can easily start enjoying by creating your first to-do list.