I’m willing to bet you’ve made a fair few To Do lists in your day. You might even be a serial list maker, relishing the opportunity to break out the coordinated stationery, and colour coding your tasks with a myriad of highlighters and gel pens. Of course, that could just be me.
Now, it’s true to say that To Do lists often divide opinion. Some people think they do nothing but act as a constant reminder of how much you have to do, and how little you’re managing to achieve. They’re a negative noose hanging round your neck.
Personally, I think that’s a bit extreme, but I can see the logic. The flip side is that writing a list can, if nothing else, help you to set concrete goals and organise your thoughts, usually ensuring you don’t forget anything. The problem is when you don’t manage the list correctly, and whilst tasks are remembered, they don’t get done.
The reality is there’s a degree of skill to creating an effective To Do lists, so you can ensure everything on there gets done!
Here are my top tips that will, hopefully, help you just To Do it.
# 1 Write it the night before
There is no point waiting until you get in to the office to start your to do list, get it down the night before. That way you can start your day with clarity. Yes, I know things can change and new stuff comes in, but at least then you will already know what you have to do that day, regardless of what else comes in.
So many of our clients write massive long lists, including everything they need to do, from emptying the rubbish bin to topping up the paper in the photocopier. A 100 item list is going to be daunting, and it’s going to be impossible to see the wood for the trees. How can you quickly see what has to be done, and is important? Simple, you can’t.
Keep your to do list short and sweet – don’t have more than three things on there that you absolutely HAVE to do today. If you only achieve three things today, what do they categorically have to be? Everything else is just a nice to do. So write a “nice to do” list and keep it to one side in case you get time later.
# 3 First things first
When compiling your To Do list, make sure you put the items in order of importance, starting with the highest at the top. When you come in to the office, tackle your first item before you do anything else. Don’t check your email, or answer your phone – stay focussed and get the big one out of the way.