My father, Kenneth, was in town recently. He lives in Washington DC currently but comes here regularly, mainly to help my grandmother Grace with ious household and administrative tasks. That being said, he always makes a great effort to also spend quality time with me, my wife and my sons as much as possible. I love my Dad. I consider him one of the closest people I have in my life. Due to the distance, I don’t get as much time with him as I would like but the time we share is always filled with love and means the world to us both. This particular trip was shorter than his usual ones. He had very many tasks to pack into that short amount of time. I knew ahead of time that I probably would only get to see him for an hour or two. The reasons for which I fully understood.

He stopped by our place the night before he was set to leave for home. We hung out for a little while, had some wine and “shot the breeze” as we normally do. Then, as he was wrapping up to leave he thought of another thing he needed to take care of before he got on the plane. He pulled out a sheet of legal style paper filled with other actions he had previously written and it immediately caught my attention.

He has a great system of to-do list making! Simple but highly effective. I peppered him with questions about it.

He described that he basically lists an action verb in the margin (left of the line) and the task in the main section (right of the line). He pointed out that beginning each task on a to-do list with a physical action verb is crucial for completion (i.e. Buy Milk, Call Bob, etc.). In addition, separating these verbs using the red margin line on a legal pad allows for easy scanning for related tasks and easy grouping into contexts. In other words, if he is at his computer he will pull out his list and be able to easily pick out all the ones that begin with “E-mail”.

For someone who is not a member of the GTD cult I have to admire how much he has the stuff nailed.The fact that he can do this using almost any old pad of paper is thrifty, ubiquitous and further proof that it is not about GTD per se or the “right” tools, it is about finding a system that you trust. It is also another sign that this apple, despite the physical distance, has never strayed far from the org-fu of the tree.

Thanks, Dad.