How I escaped from the "I'll do it later" plague 5 years ago... with 3 todo lists

As a friend of mine, Manuel, said in a recent blog post, "I'll do it later when I'll have time" is a plague.
No need to explain why. You know what I mean. I never do that anymore.

It's unacceptable to not knowing and doing what you really want

There is a huge risk of letting your busyness or laziness postponing  most of thing you really want in your life and let your basic routine take over every thing: work, TV, internet stuff, series, etc.
Why considering it as a major risk? Because it's pretty sad to spend your whole life not doing what you really want to do because you're don't really think of it and think of how do it
Isn't it?

If you've read the 4-hours workweek, Linchpin, Getting Things Done you know that some tricks and habits are very useful to escape the "I'll do it later" plague. For example, Seth Godin learned me the word "shipping", meaning doing things, acting, challenging the "status quo" (another Seth's gimmick), transforming anything you do into "art" instead of letting the "I'll do it later" take over you.  It was about 5 years ago (see my blog post about these book at this time). I discovered these books thanks to Olivier Roland and his blog. It basically changed by life. I don't know you Olivier but thank you.

I just want to share the way I do personally, simply using 2 kind of lists - short term and long term - maybe it can help you!

1) Use your brain to think and nothing else, doing a short term todo list - a pro and a perso

To free up resources, like on a computer. To use your brain to think instead of using it to remember useless stuff. 
To move your ass. How putting "go to to the gym for 30 mins" on a list on a biweekly basis makes you to go there? Because. Try it and you'll see.

Best practices (years of practice behind this list...):

  • Split perso and pro. 
    • My pro is on Outlook. Note that it's not my Inbox (using Inbox as todo is a worst practice, avoid it!, again, my friend Manuel says that) (my Inbox is empty by the way, I'm quite proud of it... nevermind) It's task manager of Outlook 365. 
    • My perso one is on my iPhone. It's an app called Todo by Appigo. It's a very very basic one but it fits my needs - I use it for 7 years. Hundreds of blog posts list amazing todolist apps. I let you choose your favorite. 
  • Empty your brain on these lists. Don't be shy, full disclosure! Only action items  ("become rich and intelligent", "run a unicorn company" is not something to list here).
  • Be precise on tasks you put. That's maybe the most important point.
  • Add one shot and recurring tasks. 
  • Don't be afraid of listing stupid things such as calling mum every Wednesday or couple anniversary day of the month the 24th, or wax shoes every month.
  • Check this lists every day (I check it 20 times a day...). If you really use it the right way, emptying your brain, you'll naturally check it often.
  • Do know what takes less than 5 minutes. Indeed, when you start spending more time listing todos than doing stuff, it's starting to be a bit stupid :)
  • Update & refine it constantly. Indeed, if you skip a task everyday, something is wrong. Maybe you don't care this task, maybe it's a too big one, maybe you have to resolve something else before doing this task. Moreover, if you never update your todo list, it become a cemetery of millions of things to do, which is useless. If you're using short term todo the right way, you'll like updating and refining it. Indeed, refining your todo is like taking 5 minutes to dialogue with yourself, wondering why you did not do something, how you can make a task more feasible, tweaking it. The important is facing the task and shipping, start small but avoid giving up or letting your brain "forgetting" you planned something.
  • Be severe and be kind. To check lists, sometimes you have to kick your ass. But don't torture you too much. If you're too lazy to do your daily Japanese lesson, it's ok. If you're too lazy to clean house this week, be kind with you, check it without doing. If you're not motivated to search a new flat this month because you're off or because you're too busy with work, postpone without feeling guilty. Pretty important point. If you put too much pressure on you, you'll be asphyxiated and stop using todo lists. Consider Zen To Done from one of my favorite blogger about happiness, Leo Babauta, a great very cool version of GTD.
  • List what others have to do. 
    • Perso: A friend have to pay you back 5 euro, note it. A friends borrowed you a book, not it. And put a todo in a month to check if he gave you back. It's just a way to free up your mind (and see who are your real friends haha)
    • Pro: Colleagues have to answer to an email from you, note it (use the flag button in Outlook). It will just makes you work a lot faster because you'll ALWAYS get answers. Indeed, you'll never give up. No answer after 3 reminders by email, phone call escalation. Still no answer after several calls: escalation to managers. In big companies where hundreds of email reach inboxes per day and where you have dozen of stakeholders by topic, it's crucial to follow up the right way answers.
  • If you want to become a king of todo lists you can ask me for a training check tons of blog posts about Getting things done method, aka. GTD. It's the best way to handle lists. 

    Let's take the task "do some sports every week". Written like that, you'll never do it. You need a very clear action item: "run 10km every two days after work". Ok you don't have running shoes. Add the task "find the right running shoes". When you found it, update it to "buy running shoes". Here you go. You can now run 10km every 2 days. After a couple of weeks, you note that you never did it? Why? Time to let to be your own Psy :) Are you afraid of running? Maybe consider other sport. Are you afraid or going out dressed like a runner? Common! Are you afraid of the distance? Decrease. Are you afraid of the frequency? Decrease. The target is to not give up. Are you over depressed and close to burn out? OK, let's postpone for a month and we'll see.
    Got it?

    Example 2:
    "Buy a flat". No way, too much things to do, too risky, to wow, you have to decompose. Start small: "setup alerts on websites selling flats". Check it when done! yay! Well done. Then add the task: Visit 1 flat. Yes you have to pick your phone, check your agenda. Then you get inputs from real estate agencies, friends, flat sellers and it start to look simple. Then add the task, visit 5 flats. Write names and phone number of people you have to call to visit the flat you want in the todo list (no need to check the website or other places) Don't check the box before getting a go/no go for a visit. Got it?

    2) Let the real you express what he wants and find with him a path to success doing a long term todo list

    Yes, the title is weird. I love this idea of long term todo. 

    It's a very funny and intimating thing to do.
    Indeed, it's basically a moment when you list what you want to be and how close you are from it. It's HUGE! It's a life changing activity. In our busy life, we NEVER take time to listen to what we really want. This list is a great way to do so. It's also a great way to check how you move forward, doing amazing things!

    How to do it?

    • Column 1 (yes I use Google Sheet for this): List you life goals. Money, competencies, love, places to visit, lifestyle to have, diet, content to see, minimum  or maximum amount of stuff to consume/buy/learn by week/month/year stuff to learn, company to work for, people you'd like to meet, causes you'd like to support, companies you'd like to create.List all your dreams, your wishes to the Genie if he comes across, what you'd like if you have an unlimited amount of money, time and energy.
    • Column 2: Next action item. That's the tricky colum. The one where you face the "giving up" monster and kill him finding a not so difficult to do task to move forward! What is also amazing is that connecting your dream to reality, you quite often understand that it's not really "that" you want... (do it and you'll understand).

    Example 1: 
    Imagine you want to drive a Ferrari. What's the next step? Ask for a test drive for next Xmas sending an email to your family & lover and ask them what they think. After that, just add as a next step to be sure your family got it :)
    Example 2: 
    You want to learn how to dance. What's the next step: 1) Find a place to learn close to work or home. Add this task to your short term todo.
    Example 3: 
    You want to get a LSE MBA. What's the next step? 1) Check available MBAs, maybe they're not good for you (I wanted an INSEAD MBA. I made researches and saw that Marketing INSEAD MBAs were not so good, I saved $50 000 :p)  2) Check if you company could be open to pay it. Add these todos to your short term todo.
    Example 4: 
    You want to double your salary. What's the next step? It will be a long way. 1) check open jobs paying a lot more and try to apply to them 2) identify within your company how you can get a great promotion and let your management know you have "ambition". That's a good start. Add them to short term todo.
    Example 5: 
    You want to meet Barack Obama. Back to basics 0) Determine a purpose, if you got one 1) Ask on Twitter 2) Send an email through the White House portal. Add these task to short term todo.
    Got it?

    Column 3, 4, 5: Status!
    That's the very funny columns.
    Every 6 months, I do a follow up on the latests next action item.

    Sometimes it's "ok, standby, I'm not courageous enough", sometimes it's "gosh, I'm close to made it, let's continue", or "ok, change the action item, it's not working, switch to action item "X" and add it to short term todo."
    This every 6 month frequency is amazing. I see how I evolve, how my feeling change, how my goals change too. Never delete the columns, it's too funny to check your 3 years ago way to think.
    When tasks are done, put them in a Done sheet :) Your kind of life's hall of fame !!

    2 years ago I added "stop Diet Coke". 1 year ago I was sure that I'd never succeed to stop this so addictive drug. Now I stopped. Don't ask me why. It came naturally.
    4 years ago I put: buy a flat in Paris. It was really a crazy project for me. Too complex, I postponed several times. And I have a talked with a cousin who don't consider buying flats is complicated in a world where banks neatly offer money. It kicked my ass. I'm now about to complete this achievement.
    1 year ago I added: see all UNESCO places of France at a 1 per month Frequency. I started doing it. Today I don't really care seeing stuff for seing stuff and travelling for travelling. Don't ask me why. This goal is stand by but may come back!

    Important point is to move forward, a little bit maybe, or postpone, but never delete lines, never give up if it's still something you want. (and if you no longer want an item, put the line in grey or strike it, no deletion, don't cut your roots!) Follow up, explore plan B, then C, then D. if you check the story of great companies, great artists, most of the time they faced tons of failures, refusals, no go but they continued, moved forward and finally made it. 

    Example: you want to join an NGO. You propose your help. No answer. Without follow ups it will stay like that and go on the list of things you wanted to do but "they did not answered / it did not worked". With follow ups, you'll call them, email them again, call them again, send them an ultimatum email and then follow up with a plan B or with a "let's try again next year".

    If your "real you" want to do something, don't ignore him.

    End of this very personal and very long blog post. Give me feedbacks now! I hope that you like it :)