I love my todo lists. Writing down everything I need to do stops me worrying that I’ve forgotten something. I even put on todo items to remind me to strop working and take a break or do some exercise.

But, just like every other IT worker, something new will crop up. Your Boss wants some information on a spreadsheet, an urgent all hands Teams call crops up or that misbehaving app on your machine that takes an hour to fix.

There things pop up and throw your entire day out of whack, and your To Do list looks more and more like a wish list than a plan. After a few days of this it can start to get really disheartening as you fall further and further back from where you want to be. I was finding this more and more as I’ve settled into working from home during lock down

So now my To Do list also has a ‘Done It’ section. Anything that comes in and has to be done that day gets added to the list, but prefixed with ‘+’. This means I have an easy way to see what has come in and bumped things off of my list.

If it doesn’t need to be actioned the same day the it goes onto my planner list for actioning at a more appropriate time in the future

At the end of the day, if I have tasks that I haven’t ticked off on my to do list, then I can quickly see if they were pushed off by too many incoming tasks. I also have a better list of what I HAVE done, not just what I had planned to do that day.

After a couple of days I get a better feel for how much overhead I need to leave each day to cope with these unknown tasks that are going to come in. So I can make an allowance in how much I commit to each day to make sure I get things done. If I’m strike lucky and noting unseen come in, then I just pick more task off of my planning list to fill up the rest of the day.

Remember that your to do list should be a good indication of not only what you want to achieve on the day, but also a realistic list of what you CAN achieve that day. If you’ve listed more to do than you can, they you have a wish list not a to do list.