3 Ways To Build Better To-Do Lists (2 of 3)

This post is part of a series (part 1 | part 2 | part 3)

2. if something needs to be done at a certain time, make it a calendar event, not a TODO ITEM.

Computer are actually incapable of recognizing time. When you tell the computer to “wait 1 second,” it actually converts 1 second to the number of CPU cycles to wait before executing your code.  This means that if another program suddenly tries to execute high priority code right before your timer is up, the CPU will go run their code and leave your program hanging to dry.  

This is actually how computers freeze.  Some program has demanded so much attention that the computer has no time to do anything else like responding to your mouse or keyboard.

In real life, If you decided that a certain task must be performed at 10am, something could come up at 9:50, forcing you’ve pushed all the tasks back.  The problem with chronologically plan a todo list is that chances are you will be behind.

Maybe it’s your typical Tuesday and you want to read the newest academic article, get the day’s work done, prepare for a talk on Friday, and have time to buy groceries on the way home before firing up The Mindy Project or How I Met Your Mother reruns for a few good laughs.  Certainly a day slated to be productive – at least until 9:50, when you get call from your boss.

“I need you to put all your attention on this right now.”

Like a computer scheduled to run a program at 10am but couldn’t get to it, you are now a walking Blue Screen of Doom.

If you have something that must happen at a certain time, use the calendar.  This has the added benefit that calendar conflicts are slightly more socially acceptible than todo events.  “I’ve got on my calendar a phone call with Dr. Smith at 10am, would you mind if I get to this matter afterwards?”

Save your todo list for things that have to be done by a certain time but don’t need to be done at a certain time.


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Howard Chen
Vice Chair for Artificial Intelligence at Cleveland Clinic Diagnostics Institute
Howard is passionate about making diagnostic tests more accurate, expedient, and affordable through disciplined implementation of advanced technology. He previously served as Chief Informatics Officer for Imaging, where he led teams deploying and unifying radiology applications and AI in a multi-state, multi-hospital environment. Blog opinions are his own and in no way reflect those of the employer.

2 responses to “3 Ways To Build Better To-Do Lists (2 of 3)

  1. Pingback: 3 Ways To Build Better To-Do Using Programming Concepts | Figure Stuff Out

  2. Pingback: 3 Ways To Build Better To-Do List Using CompSci Concepts (3 of 3) | Figure Stuff Out

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