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How to Divide and Conquer Your Task Lists


This post was written before I fully understood landscape of neurodiversity.

My earlier posts on a productivity system are still relevant. The system works well for autistics and for people with ADHD who need a structure.

In my earlier post on the main tools you need in a personal productivity system, I suggested using a task manager app.

It wasn’t just a task list that I was recommending, but something more. I wrote a list of requirements for the task manager, refresh your memory here if you need to.

One of the main reasons I suggested a task manager is that it can help you manage multiple lists.

Using Multiple Task Lists

We naturally tend to use multiple lists. Going on holiday? You may have a packing list. You may also have a separate list of the places you want to visit when you’re there.

Going shopping? A shopping list is a wonderful way to make sure you get everything you need, and that you don’t get unnecessary or unhealthy foods that catch your eye.

Separate lists make sense. Imagine combining your two-holiday lists so that items to pack and places to visit were all jumbled up together. It’s manageable, but it’s not the easiest way to organise yourself.

Now imagine adding in your weekly shopping list, with groceries jumbled through your holiday list. Who would do that? Anyone? Leave me a comment if you do, I’d like to know how you get on with it.

One giant list of everything doesn’t make sense in the above situations. Why then try to work with one big task list?

It’s worth taking a bit of time to split your huge to-do list into smaller more manageable lists. A good task manager will be able to take the pain out of managing multiple lists and still make sure you have all the tasks where you can find them.

What Lists Do You Need?

This is very much your choice to suit your circumstances. There are some basics worth considering.

  • Keep active work and home lists separate.
  • Unless you’re planning to do a task within the next week keep it on a holding list.
  • Have separate holding lists for work and home.
  • Break work lists into distinct categories e.g., by project, meetings, or at your workstation.
  • Have a separate list for when you’re out and about.
  • Consider having lists based on your energy levels e.g., 5-minute tasks versus deep work.

Over to you. Think about your list management, how would you break your lists up? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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