Crucial Skills Logo The Official VitalSmarts Blog

3 Tips to Organize Your Life

Dear Justin,

I have always been a list-maker and over the years this has served me pretty well. I’m getting older and I’m finding that I’m making lists over and over so I end up with multiple lists. They’re on my desk, they’re in my pockets, they’re on my phone. What can I do to either organize my lists or just use one?

Overrun with Lists

View Justin’s response below:

Justin Hale

"You change your life one action at a time. My next tip is your next action.” Justin Hale is a speaker, trainer, and training designer. He plays a key role on VitalSmarts’ product development team and is often the face of VitalSmarts’ award-winning classroom, virtual, and on-demand courses.

The ideas expressed in this article are based on the skills and principles taught in Getting Things Done®. Learn more about Getting Things Done.

Man training

What's Your Style Under Stress?

Discover your dialogue strengths and weaknesses with this short assessment.

Take Assessment >

Stack of books

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to the newsletter and get our best insights and tips every Wednesday.

Subscribe >

Woman training

Get Answers to Tough Questions

From stubborn habits to difficult people to monumental challenges, we can help.

Ask a Question >

112 thoughts on “3 Tips to Organize Your Life

  1. I liked the old format. Reading it when I had time worked better in a very distracting office. I cannot take the time to put on headphones to listen to a video. I looked forward to this information and found it very informative. I am sad to see that you have gone to a format that does not work in a busy office environment. This information will now get an automatic delete from this individual.

    1. It’s definitely less convenient for me and will likely means I’ll see less answers. Hopefully they’ll add a transcript so we have the option to read and for the hearing impaired.

      1. A transcript would be very helpful. Not only is it easier, more convenient, and faster for me to read the content. And it enables “skimming.” But it also enables reviewing and checking content before using or responding to it. And that’s important to me.

        1. For example, I put on my headphones to find some specific language you used, so I could reference (quote) it in my reply. In addition to the usual difficulties of finding the place in the video where the critical things are said, and replaying it a few times so that I could transcribe the words correctly, I also had several people holding a loud ad-hoc meeting partially in my cube to my right, and then someone barged in, to my left, and stopped me from watching the video for some trivial administrative nonsense that they were making urgent. (Yes, I’m attempting to work in a dysfunctional workplace. But who isn’t, these days?)

    2. I agree! The video is a great concept as another often more effective form of communication, but it’s much easier for me to read a transcript of a video in an open office environment than to watch one.

    3. I always felt the information I read on Crucial Skills was helpful not only at work but at home. I am very sad to see the change in format, I do not have speakers on my work computer…..and again like many of the other responses, I can’t have volume on in our busy office. Would it really be that difficult to have the answers in a typed format as well as video?

    4. I agree–was excited to scan and pick out some jewels, but that is not possible in the video format, so I am just moving on. Maybe combine the video with a link to transcript version?

  2. I agree. It’s convenient for me to read, not view and listen to videos with the extra tech and time that requires.

  3. Can’t watch the video. I agree with the others that reading is more convenient. Additionally, I could print the text and refer to it later or shared it with others when I found it useful. Now nobody benefits.

  4. Our company has used the Crucial Conversations books and I believe I have benefited from them.
    I feel that the Written version of these skills is preferable, I like to print them off! :)
    Please consider returning to the written replies.
    Thank you

  5. I also agree. More companies are going to an open office environment. Individuals can’t listen to a video without distracting others around them. Besides, my computer does not have speakers. I prefer to read articles. If video is your new way of communication, I am going to unsubscribe.

  6. I would agree that reading is much more convenient. Also the background music is just as loud or louder than the speaker and I cannot make out all of the speaker’s comments.

  7. I agree with the above. I have a few minutes to read through this but I’m waiting for a meeting to start and don’t have headphones and won’t put them on even if I had them. Could you provide both? And, you should have cc on the video.

  8. I received the email and thought this would be a great read. When I opened the blog, and it was video/audio only I was going to delete, but decided to scroll down to see you you happen to include the written version, and saw the above posts. I would agree that in an office setting, written communications are always better than video/audio for a variety of reasons.

  9. Yup, add my voice to the chorus. I vastly prefer written lessons; much easier to consume and digest. I have to take notes on video for future reference… and that’s one more thing to put on the to-do list!!!

  10. Video does not work for me due to cellular data limits. How about putting a transcript of what is said in the video below so that all needs can be met?

  11. I agree with the others – I look forward to the Crucial Skills emails but I will not open videos. I can read faster and comprehend more with a written version. I hope you will consider returning to the written format, or including both formats to benefit both visual and auditory learners.

  12. Your new Video Format reminds me of step 2, where you have to do 8 actions to get to the list. Like many of the others who have left comments about the new format, I have too many steps & obstacles to go to your video to get the answer to the question. I hope you go back to written answer.
    Thank you.

  13. The state government organization I work for has YouTube blocked on our network. I would also love to see a transcript accompanying future videos. Thank you for all you do!

  14. I completely agree with the above comments. I can consume the information more effectively and efficiently by reading, and will retain it better. I also don’t need a musical soundtrack to everything in my life!

    VitalSmarts has great writers (sadly a dying art) and I always appreciate the written blog posts and articles.

    Sometimes the old ways are best folks!

  15. Disappointed to need to click through rather than being able to read the e-mail, even moreso to discover the “blog” was a vlog. Text, in the original e-mail please!

  16. Appreciate the free tools offered from Vital Smarts. These quick education bites are very helpful. Video can be a helpful addition but I find that I am less focused than if I can quick read through something. Maybe a multi-modal approach would enhance effectiveness – have video and the written script available for these. Thanks.

  17. I prefer the written response in the email, not clicking a link, then having the click another to open the video. I have no idea what the response is since I can’t listen to a video at this time, and this email will get deleted. I could have been done reading it by now.

  18. I agree. If you feel the video format is important to reach new folks, I’d provide a written option to not lose the folks who’ve been reading (and forwarding) these weekly posts for years. Thanks

  19. Agree with all the above. I don’t have time to watch a video and would rather read an article. It is also easier to share an article with co-workers. I won’t be watching videos.

  20. Some people like the written, some prefer audio, other video… It’s a cognitive preference, not an option.

  21. interesting that when I clicked on the link for “How To Ensure To-Do Lists Don’t Overrun Your Life” in “Getting Things Done” under the video link by accident, there is the same “Dear Justin” letter as well as the same 3 tips in the video written out as most everyone on this blog asked for. Seems redundant and certainly wastes time to have it in several different places to find it…ironically for a time management course…my time was wasted trying to get the information.

    1. Thanks Cathy for this comment! I went back to the email and clicked the link to the transcript. Much easier to read in my cube than to rememeber to listen to a video later in a better environment.

  22. I’d love to actually see some examples of tools you guys suggest and how they’re being used. For me, I’m torn between iPhone Notes app, Trello, Wunderlist, OneNote, Outlook, Slack, post-its, and a notebook. File storage is another beast…Google Drive vs. Box vs Dropbox vs iCloud……AH! Each tool is kind of for a different purpose, so it’s hard to cut any one of them off. Especially when I’m required to use some of them for work. It’s also hard to cut off certain tools that have features I rely on, like due dates/reminders, tagging, or sharing. I think the GTD principles of daily and weekly review are the key that’s missing for getting all these tools in sync and collecting action items in one place. But if you have any tips for juggling multiple tools when work requires them, please let us know.

    1. I agree. Helpful comments, Kristen. I wondered if there is an app to best capture and separate my home lists and ideas to process later. I use Outlook for work things because it is accessible and used by coworkers. It doesn’t seem like a good place to keep my grocery list and gift ideas for the holidays.

  23. I agree with what others are saying about being able to read instead of watch a video. Please consider adding text if you’d like to still keep audio/video. Thank you!

  24. Basically…

    1. Use one tool to capture your lists. Don’t necessarily use one list but one tool that stores multiple lists as needed

    2. Ensure that tool is convenient (easy to use), accessible (always available) and reliable (something you will choose to use).

    3. Separate ideas from lists. Don’t force yourself to parse ideas that may become lists into a list right away. Use a separate tool to capture ideas.

    I think that in practice one of the first list divisions is to separate into a short-term (today) list and a longer-term list.

  25. Agree. It is disappointing to be presented with a video. Reading is much more efficient in an office setting. In addition, you can read / skim at your own pace and return to it later. The video locks in to its pace.

  26. You might have asked us what we wanted first. Isn’t that a rule somewhere, like in your basic approach to getting consensus? Thanks for what you do. Now, please give us back our transcripts.

  27. prefer the other method. new method redirects to web page with youtube video link. Which our company has disable the youtube site for our workstation so get a blocked error message from our IT department. And no other area to read the respond to the question.

  28. Agreeing with the others. Video is nice, but doesn’t work in my office setting. The old format was better for me, but if you want to change to video responses, go ahead, just please provide a transcript.

  29. I definitely prefer the written version. Possibly provide both so that the user has a choice. Also agree with the message about the background music – really more distracting than it is pleasant. If this is the wave of the future, you can count me out.

  30. I love your email. I am thankful the video was short, I also prefer the written bullets as well. I loved the content. I am also interested in examples of what master list apps we could use and why. I like that you are so very practical. It’s a huge help!

  31. I definitely empathize with all of the commenters who prefer a text version of this content. Many people learn best from written content or have work lives which are best suited for this approach.

    I personally enjoyed the video format and hope VitalSmarts takes a mixed approach for future content. Producing videos, and other media, allow the company to appeal to a broader audience.

    I was surprised more people are not already equipped to quickly transition between different media in an office environment. Phone calls, videos, email, websites, video conferencing, etc. all seem standard fair in 2019.

    Feedback is great. We should all improve our focus on the things within our control and be ready to adapt. Surely things will continue to evolve as technology does. Have a great week, folks!

  32. Need written response, its not practical to throw on headphones to listen to this stuff. I can toggle between screens when I get time and normally can not get threw a full article on in one sitting let alone listen to one. Our company environment is not set up here to have headphones on all the time – so would love the attention to a mixed media approach for all situations.

  33. Add me to the growing list of those who prefer the text version. It is too difficult for me to watch videos in my working environment, and I like to save and refer back to thoughts that really hit home with me.

  34. Being on the go, I prefer to read responses and have ability to print out. Sometimes I am not where I can listen to a response cause of the sound. Please bring back written responses.

  35. Also add me to the list of people already using your products who is disappointed that the e-mail text version of the articles has disappeared and a video is in its place. I won’t watch the video. I appreciated and saved all the e-mails, often printing them out to highlight and referring back to them as I implement key points. Please reinstate the text version. Thanks.

  36. Agreed! This latest email is too busy, too distracting, i didn’t know where to focus, and more importantly to easily find the solution being offered.
    Please provide a written transcript.

  37. Add one more to the growing list of those who prefer the text version. For a person without unlimited phone data, it is much better to receive a text version. Otherwise, I have to wait until I have wifi to view the answer. If I have to wait, then I might not look at it at all.

  38. Chris Chandler’s comment posted here, December 11, 2019 at 8:56 am, is a good example of how even these emails can be reduced to an essence of simplicity. Maybe Chris could start writing for you. Or if he did a video blog, your content could be reduced to one minute, and you wouldn’t have seen the riot of complaints. I can’t wait to see your response.

  39. I agree with all above. The new format will mean I no longer read (listen) to the results. The old format worked much better.

  40. I agree with the many comments here that are requesting a written copy. I am in an office where I often cannot launch and listen to video. In addition I like to read as I feel it enhances my retention of the subject. Thanks for taking these comments into consideration.

  41. In response to the original ask of too many lists, please know this happens to many! What complicates is that we have mobile, PC, journals – many formats and choosing one isn’t that easy. With this, I’d suggest looking at Bullet Journaling – this is a method of getting all lists in one place and reflects how life happens. Thoughts can come up for anything anytime.

  42. Agree, ditto, please post text!! I’m a long long time follower. I read in sections, think about it, reread and rethinks nuggets of wisdom. Not possible in video format. If you feel you need to add video content for that demographic, don’t loose us loyal oldies by eliminating the text versions. Make both available together.

  43. I was also disappointed to see the video format. I am more likely to read a short column than I am to watch a video due to my work environment. I hope you will continue to provide a written format for your terrific newsletter even when you use videos.

  44. 100% agree with all the comments asking you to consider going back to printed format. Video has a time and place, but sometimes I just want to see things in black and white that I can refer back to without having to view a whole video over again.

  45. I too am disappointed in the new format. I will not watch video and I like to print some of the responses – which video does not permit. As with the many responses above, I prefer the text format. My office atmosphere is already noisy and I personally think it’s rude to wear my ear buds or headphones in open office setting such as mine. I am sure I will discontinue following if there are only video responses.

  46. Like the others disappointed that there is no written version. Not willing to put on headphones to listen as is time consuming, noisy, and sticks no where as well as reading.

  47. I absolutely agree with everyone else. I want to be able to read the article, not listen to a video.It appears to me that reading is going the way of analog clocks, making change and writing in script. Every time I open a newspaper article online, I see that you can listen to it instead of reading it. We are going to end up with a generation of people that will not bother to learn how to read. How sad.

  48. I agree that a video is less convenient and less useful. I am trying to reduce my screen time, not extend it. Please offer the option of reading a response or watching a video if the response. I realize you are trying to drive people to your website, but it is not a solution for all… Most, based on the responses I have read.

  49. Same here, I cannot easily watch a video in my current office setting. There is little chance that I will find time to set aside privately to view. I enjoy these emails and hope to be able to continue reading them.

  50. I watched the video shortly after it was posted yesterday morning. You said it well; better than I could have said it, with more practical recommendations.

    But I’ve been puzzling over one thing …

    Regarding “Tip #3: Record thoughts and ideas in a separate capture tool.”

    You did say, “*Maybe* it would be helpful for you …” but I’m wondering if people commonly have thoughts and ideas that are not action items? That seems like a foreign thought, to me. I’m known for obsessively writing things down on pieces of paper, at all times. At all times, I have a pen and paper, in my pocket, so I can write things down. But I can’t think of anything I’ve written recently that wasn’t an action item.

    For example, I just wrote “Guild” on a piece of paper shortly before posting this. Actually, I would normally just write that, but while thinking of this post, I “spelled it out” as “Use the word ‘Guild.'” It’s not that I wanted to use the word guild in this post, but I did have the idea to use it in a work post that I wrote up last night, updated to use the word “Guild” and sent shortly before posting here. So that was an action: “Use the word guild.”

    The only things I can think of that I write that are *not* action items, are people’s names, and notes I take during meetings and while reading books and articles. Those notes (separate from action items) are summarized information, to improve memory, and for possible reference later.

    1. Giving it more thought, I realized that I and others I know usually have a separate tracking system for scheduled items — a calendar. Some people use a conventional wall calendar; I use a DayTimer. DayRunners are also popular.

      So, in addition to keeping one standard list of “TO DO” items, I’ve found it also helpful to keep one unified calendar of scheduled events — by date and time.

  51. Please return to including a written format. Video is nice, but unusable for many in an office or remote location. If only going to be a video feed, I plan to unsubscribe.

  52. I see that many have asked to bring back the text message. Please listen! I have enjoyed the email tips for years, and would like to continue to do so, rather than go to a link, then try to find a way to listen to a video. For someone who is always helping to make my day more efficient, this is a giant leap backwards!

  53. I prefer to read Crucial Skills information, not watch videos. And although I found (following a tip in the comments) that one of the “Related Material” links (with a different title than the video) seemed to have the same information as the video (not sure, since I didn’t watch it and never will) I was pretty frustrated with this experience by that time and blame you for a big waste of my time today. If this experience doesn’t change for the better very soon I’ll be saying goodbye.

  54. I agree with everyone here. When I discovered it was a video I immediately scrolled down to see if anyone else had commented on the format. If you plan to do more of these in the future then I hope you will provide transcripts for those of us who prefer to read.

  55. Hi. I hope you go back to written responses or transcripts of the video, as I won’t generally be able to watch in my workplace easily. I also prefer written learning. thank you!

  56. I must agree with many of the comments. I am unable to hear the reply because of the work area I am. The written response worked much better in my environment.

  57. My heart sank when I saw the video. I’d much rather read text. I can read it more quickly and I think I retain more of the information. I’ll probably end up not watching many of the videos.

  58. Agreed – I have a work function that requires that I have an audio program running near constantly, I am not going to shut it down to play the blog as interesting and helpful as I might find the info. Some organizations provide both the video and a transcript – would encourage VS to do the same.

  59. Agree that the written format is preferable. Not going to get the earphones out of the cabinet, click, etc. Why not publish both if others perfer video.

  60. I see that someone said there is a transcript, but it’s not obvious to me (on Windows Chrome) where it is. It’s also not very accessible to only have video – what about someone who is deaf? I expect better from CrucialSkills.

  61. I agree, as well – I prefer a text version. I can read faster than you can speak, so watching a video takes longer. I’m much more likely to put off watching a video to another time, whereas, with a print answer, I’m more likely to read it right away.

    We have this same problem at work….video is taking over everywhere, making it much harder to skim for key information and curate out key info to save. Stop the madness!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.