How often have you thought, “I must do X as soon as I finish what I’m doing now”? And promptly forgotten all about it? Me too!
To avoid this predicament, the conventional advice is to add X to your to-do list or note it on a handy scrap of paper before continuing with the current task. Instead, I suggest you stop what you are doing and make X the current task.
Why? The reason X occurs to you is probably because it is more important, urgent or whatever than the current task. If you do not do it now, it will remain an uneasy nagging at the back of your mind, giving you no peace until it is attended to. And this will happen even after you have forgotten what X was! You – know it’s true – “What was it I was going to do?” must be a familiar refrain for most humans (animals, of course, do not have to-do lists, do everything as it occurs to them and are probably the happier for it).
In fact, I suggest you do everything as it occurs to you rather than trying to prioritise. This will release you from the manacles of list-making or, worse, scrabbling through heaps of notes scrawled on the backs of old envelopes, tickets, final demands and other detritus.
Okay, I appreciate it is not always possible to drop what you are doing the instant a stray thought enters your mind. Standing at the top of a ladder with paint brush in hand is probably not the best time to decide to down tools and visit your bank. So, yes, there are times when you have to exercise restraint and just make a note (the top of a ladder may also be a poor choice of note-making venue but the smartphone in your pocket will take care of that!)
I see this approach as part of living in the now and it certainly has the benefit of saving the time a lot of my acquaintances seem to spend writing their to-do lists – and then rewriting them (or editing the file) to bring them once more into some kind of priority sequence.
I find, to a great extent, doing things randomly as they occur to me does work. Mostly my tasks sort themselves into priority-order without the hassle of constantly rearranging lists. Maybe yours will too.
All this is not to deny that I make lists. I do and I try not to let a list get in the way of living in the now.