I have found that my todo lists work great for three cases:
- Simple things that have a very specific due date (e.g. call Chris at 3pm, pay credit card bill by January 15, etc.)
- Things I would like to do but don't have to be done (e.g. organize the closet) and don't have a due date
- Short, "continuous" tasks (e.g. scan some of the pages in my filing cabinet) - I refer to this list when I have a few minutes free
The one type of task I'm having a problem with is something that has a definite due date but is more of a "project" - something that will take, say 6-8 hours. If I set the due date to the actual due date, then I risk being surprised by it and not having time. But if I set it earlier than that, I'll just continually reschedule it. One suggestion may be to break it up into small items and stagger their due dates, but I'll just keep postponing them, thinking that I want to do it all at once.
Say, for example - doing your taxes. You wouldn't put a due date of the deadline, because if you started working on them on that day, you wouldn't have enough time to complete them. So what do you do? Just pick an arbitrary earlier day and either complete it then or hope that the reminder will keep it on your mind so you do give yourself enough time to get done by the real deadline?