I Have A Shit List; Here’s What I Use It For

Though I frequently tell people who annoy me that they’re on my shit list, the reality is that my actual shit list doesn’t contain any names at all but, rather, ‘to do’ items. I mentioned it in my last post on my task management system, and I’ve alluded to it on social media once or twice, so I thought it was about time I explained myself.

My shit list is where I put small niggly tasks that aren’t overly time-sensitive but that still need to be done. They generally require very little time, and the idea is that I slot them into my week to make sure they do get done but, if my day turns out busier than usual, they’re the first things to get bumped. They’re also the things I turn to if I unexpectedly have some free time (well, that or Facebook).

Shit list. To do list. Productivity. Getting Things Done. GTD. Getting Shit Done.

“I should be working on my shit list right now.”

Let me give you an example. I hate making phone calls. Detest it. If I can get an email to you instead, I will. But sometimes they’re necessary. Things like that go on my shit list. When I sit down on a Sunday evening to work out my schedule, I sprinkle some of these throughout the coming week. Sometimes they’re crossed off; sometimes they’re not.

If, at the end of the day, I haven’t managed to get them done, they’re either bumped forward to another day or, if the remainder of the week is looking pretty full, they go back on the shit list, ready to be called upon again when needed.


(Am I starting to sound like a nutjob yet?)


How does it differ from a brain dump?

A brain dump captures EVERYTHING. (Click here to read what it is and how I do it, if it’s an unfamiliar concept to you.) It could be something as big as re-decorating your guesthouse (in which case I’m sure your butler would be only too happy to help out), or it could be something as small as throwing away the out-of-date yogurt in your fridge (or, depending on how long it’s been in there, donating it to science). It will contain urgent tasks (like getting the brakes fixed on your car) and not-so-urgent tasks (like finishing that book you bought five years ago and got two pages into). Some items will take ages (like cleaning the bathroom after your husband’s been in there) and some will take mere moments (like setting your DVR to record the new season of America’s Next Top Model).

Basically, a brain dump is a mixed bag of mayhem that you then filter into some form of usable system.

Brain Dump. 2014. Frixion erasable markers.

Probably time I updated this.

The shit list is where all the low-priority, minimal time-consuming tasks go. They’re the phone calls to make, the emails to send, the letters to post, the pictures to take so you can finally list your worldly goods on eBay, the buttons to be re-sewn… Y’know, all the shit things that you can’t really be bothered your arse doing but you know you need to get them done anyway. Shit list!

Grumpy Cat. Shit list. To do list. Productivity. Getting things done. GTD. Getting shit done.

So there you have it. If it’s on my shit list, it’ll get done eventually, but probably not before getting moved about a few times. If things have been hanging around for a particularly long time, I try to schedule some “catch-up” time into my week, which is when I plough through a few shit list items in one go.

Listing all these low priority things separately helps keep me focused on the important tasks. They’re not taking up headspace, and I’m not worrying about them because I know they’re all there in one place, ready to be dealt with when I’ve got a few minutes going spare. Dedicating even a small time slot a week to these things not only makes me feel extra productive, but it also increases my mood ‘cause it’s less shit I have to face the following day.


So whatcha think, could a shit list work for you?


What kinda items would be on your shit list?

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