Life planning using to-do lists

The most useful tool in my life management toolkit is my to-do list, which I write on a .txt file (keeping it simple!) and update daily.

Most people think about their lives as a series of short-/medium-/long-term plans. While it is sometimes necessary to take stock of the present and plan for the future, what is more important for me is breaking down the plans into actionable to-dos that I can act on today or within the next few days. More important, I believe, than life objectives, bucket lists, new year resolutions, and other “big picture” blueprints for how I should live my life.

Sometimes, I talk about my visions for the future, but I rarely plan for them directly. My approach is breaking them down into small steps, which are necessary to achieve the next step, which in turn will lead to the next step, which hopefully will lead me, step by step, towards the desired vision at the desired time in the future.

For example, I do not make a plan to “get into the blockchain industry by 2021”. (This is just an example, I do not actively seek to be in the blockchain business, sounds like too much hype for now).

This is how I will plan it: This coming Tuesday, I will spend 2 hours in the morning to

  • read 5 short articles about blockchain
  • watch 3 videos on blockchain
  • order or download 3 books about blockchain
  • shop for online classes or upcoming conferences/talks on blockchain technology.

After I do these, then I follow up with plans for the week after, e.g., reading one book on blockchain technology within 5 days. And so on.

If something seems too far ahead, I stop planning for it and just wait until the time comes. It makes living less burdensome; no need to keep track of so many things at once.

On the flip side, I like to plan every small thing that I have to do. An actual item on my to-do list: This Friday, after office hours, I will go to Mr. DIY to buy a small tube of elephant glue, and then go home and glue back a fridge magnet that had been broken in half by my son. It was his favorite fridge magnet, in the shape of a Friesian cow. The head of the cow is attached to the body with a small spring, so the head will bob if you give it a slight touch (toddlers dig that stuff). There is a duplicate one on the refrigerator of my office pantry, but I will not take that one home but instead fix the one I have at home. If I don’t plan to fix it, then it will remain unfixed for many months (most probably, forever).

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