Create an effective to-do list that works
Do you work from a daily to-do list or do you have a ‘rolling’, never-ending to-do list, probably written on an A4 pad or running into hundreds of entries if you use an app?
It’s often reported that people who write lists and set goals are more likely to achieve their objectives and get more done. It’s certainly true that list writers are more focused and productive with their time.
To-do lists, checklists are essential tools to make sense of your workload and keep you organised but you need to have one that works. Not one that makes you feel overwhelmed, guilty or becomes more of a burden.
Keep them short – if there’s too much on your daily list, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Pick 5-10 tasks that you’ll be able to action today and schedule the time for them in your diary.
Prioritise – not every task has the same importance. Prioritise the actions on your list according to how they fit with your goals and objectives. How will completing this task get you the results? Make sure you get the high priority tasks done first. Otherwise you’re more likely to cherry-pick the fun and interesting tasks and leave the more difficult ones, even though they may be more important. Use colours or numbers to highlight different priority tasks.
Group similar tasks and tackle them at the same time – like phone calls, email, admin or updating your finances. It’s quicker and more efficient to work on tasks in batches rather than switching between one type of task and the next.
Create intelligent lists. Don’t just list out all your tasks. Break them down in to manageable steps. ‘Complete X’ – may involved several tasks and take a few days to complete but ‘Arrange meeting with Y’ may be the first step and take just a few minutes. Add completion dates and timings to better organise your tasks. You might also want to include a status if other people are involved. Spreadsheets are a great way to plan your activity.
Review your lists – check your list regularly during the day to stay focused. It will act as a reminder and keep you on track. At the end of the day – cross off what you’ve completed and add anything that still needs to be done to the following day, if it’s still relevant.
Cull your lists regularly – quite often the more trivial items will fall off the end of the list as they’re no longer relevant. Relate your daily tasks to your goals and objectives – where do they fit in?
Create a master list – these are place holders or tasks that you’d like to do ‘some day’ or in the near future but aren’t yet a priority or something you need to focus on right now. So don’t clutter up your daily list but keep them as a reminder for when you’re ready.
Set aside time every now and then to tackle all those little tasks you never quite get round to but you know won’t actually take long when you do. An hour’s focused action can enable you to tick off quite a few of those tasks.
Use your to-do list as part of your daily planning.
If you’re struggling with your lists give me a call to get a better sense of your priorities.