Beyond the Rhetoric


The Value of Redundant To-Do Lists

October 20th, 2008 by
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As you may already know, there is a lot more to the business of freelance writing than the “simple” act of writing. This also applies to just about any kind of work-at-home career and as a result, it can be difficult to keep track of all the things that you need to do. I speak from the perspective of a freelance writer, but it’s exactly the same for people who sell things on eBay or make their living through affiliate marketing. For freelancers, you’ve got to keep track of all the projects you have on the go, you have to follow-up with clients regarding payment, and you have to make sure that you send out those invoices on time.

Trying to keep track of all those clients, projects, and deadlines can make anyone’s head spin. You really shouldn’t punish yourself and rely simply on your memory, because you’re human and you’ll inevitably forget something. That’s where a simple to-do list can come into play, but what I’m arguing today is that you shouldn’t keep just a single to-do list; you should maintain multiple to-do lists.

Just as I keep redundant copies of most of my data (on my laptop, backed up on a network storage drive, backed up on blank DVD-Rs, etc.), I maintain redundant to-do lists as well. While they may appear to be a waste of time to some, to-do lists are absolutely imperative to my success.

1. Lost One? No Problem

You keep backup copies of most of your important documents, so why should your to-do list be any exception? If you rely on a single piece of paper at the side of your desk and it accidentally falls in the trash, you may be completely lost as to all the projects that you have on the go. Speaking for myself, I have the physical to-do list on a pad of paper, but I also keep a copy in my iGoogle (there’s a widget for that) and my Windows Mobile smartphone. If any one of these happen to go awry, I can create a new one based on the other copies.

2. Reminders on the Go

Believe it or not, I’m not always at my desk. Even so, for better or for worse, I almost always have work on my mind in some form or another. For example, I went for a haircut yesterday and the place was pretty busy. I was told it was going to be about a 20-30 minute wait. Instead of sitting around reading Time Magazine, I whipped out my phone, checked on my to-do list, booted up the text editor, and started working on an article that is due soon. Yes, you can actually be productive on the go.

Two Sides to Any Coin

Naturally, things are not all peachy-keen when it comes to keeping redundant to-do lists. There are some inherent pitfalls to this practice too and I’ll get to those in a future post. For now, keep organized and stay on track with well-designed to-do lists.

  Category: Freelance Writing, Personal Development  

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Michael Kwan Freelance Writer

8 Responses to “The Value of Redundant To-Do Lists”

  1. dcr says:

    To do lists are too depressing, especially when it comes to your own projects, which get pushed off in favor of work for clients. After a while, you just get tired of looking at the same things on your list that never get crossed off, so you ditch the list rather than suffer the enduring pain of not having completed a project for yet another umpteenth consecutive day in a row. But, maybe that’ll be one of your pitfalls you’ll mention in your next post. 😉

  2. #2 is a great point! I have been doing the same for about a year now on my mobile phone, and it has been working wonders…

  3. Imie says:

    My to do list contains the items on earlier to do list as well as a plan to list out all my incomplete things to do.

    It’s like being in a rabbit hole.

    But I still prefer the paper for my list:)

  4. Nick says:

    Hmmm, I don’t make redundant to-do lists, but I do have multiple to-do lists…

  5. Deborah says:

    I use a sheet of paper scotch-taped to the side of my desk. Some items seem to carry over from week to week, but others actually get done. I may actually work through the list by the end of the weekend for a change. The only downside? I’ve already started next week’s list!

  6. […] it’s important that you do your best to stay on track. Earlier this month, I wrote about the value of redundant to-do lists and how these to-do lists can ensure that you stay focused on the task(s) at […]

  7. […] hours in the day to get everything done. We try to stay as productive as possible using things like to-do lists, but there never seems to be enough […]

  8. […] may recall when I wrote about keeping multiple to-do lists for the sake of redundancy. The way I approach client projects is inherently related and […]

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