The Index Card

Written from a train somewhere along the southwest coast of Italy.

Racking the head of my Pilot G-2 07 ink pen against my chest, I slip my hand into my back pocket and pull out a 3x5 index card folded in half. My eyes scan the list written on one side before locking on to the fifth item.

  • Return Library Books

I draw a clean black line through the three words and a satisfied grin creeps onto my face. I had just crossed out the final item on my to-do list for the day which meant I could do whatever I wanted without any guilt of responsibilities hanging over my head! And it was only 2:00pm!

--

You know the feeling. The deep-down satisfaction that begins at your very core and wells up inside of you when you know you have nothing to do except what you want to do. Freedom.

The iPhone has surely revolutionized productivity in the modern age, ushering in a host of applications that will "change our lives." In many ways, it has done just that. However, on rare occasions, I will find that a digital manifestation of the real thing just isn't as good as the real thing. Books, for instance, are one of those things. I would much prefer a physical book so I can flip pages, dog-ear corners and scribble in the margins. Another such system is the classic To-Do List.

I advocate "The Index Card" - a sleek 3x5 white card, blank on one side and ruled on the other. Fold it in half and you're looking at the perfect tool to organize your day. You have four sides to the card once it has been halved which allows you to split up your various lists while keeping them in one place.

 

Side 1: At the top of this list, write down the one big thing that you want to accomplish today. This could be a big project you're working on at the office, finishing up a chapter in the book you're writing, painting the kitchen etc. Beneath it, give yourself some actionable steps that will help you benchmark along the way. (eg. get paint tinted/stirred, tape the molding, lay plastic on the floor) Your goal will be to accomplish this task first; try to tackle it early on in the day while your emotional and mental stamina is still high. As the day wears on, you'll find yourself less likely to want to sit down and work on a large task.

Side 2: Write down your menial tasks. The things that need to get done but aren't necessarily time sensitive or super important. (eg. Do the dishes, run to the post office, replace the A/C filter) If you are leveraging your mornings when you have fewer interruptions, try to spend 30 minutes knocking out the items on this list that take 5 minutes or less. This practice of giving yourself several small wins early in the day gives you some momentum for tackling larger tasks later on.

Side 3: Write down your shopping list (if you have one for that day)

Side 4: Leave blank for things you remember throughout the day that you don't want to forget.

 

Spend about 5 minutes each morning, over a cup of coffee or tea, writing out this list. Slip in your back pocket and give yourself the satisfaction of scratching through each item you complete!

Simple.

Shameless plug for Pilot G-2 ink pens - they're worth their weight in gold.