There’s nothing new about the classic to-do list. We all know to-do lists can be a useful tool to help us remember things and organize our busy lives. But did you know a poorly managed to-do list can actually sabotage your productivity? Here are some tips to help you manage your list effectively.
* Goal vs. Task: Understand the difference between a goal and a task. Goals are important but they are too broad and overwhelming for a to-do list. Your to-do list should consist of tasks that can be completed and marked off. They can be related to your overall goal, but should consist of one element only.
* Master list and daily list. Keep a master list to-do list. Personally, I use a spiral notebook. Some people prefer to use their smart phones or computer. The master list is the place where you keep all of your tasks and should be reviewed regularly. But to be effective and not get side-tracked it is good to create a daily list. This is the list that you plan to focus on for the day. With a reasonable number of items listed, you won’t get overwhelmed.
* Prioritize. When you make your daily to-do list make sure you prioritize your tasks. List those things that absolutely must be done today before you add anything else.
* Be Specific: Don’t write something on your list such as “call Jane.” You may not remember what you are supposed to call Jane about so make sure you make it a specific task. Call Jane about postponing the meeting on Friday to next week.
* Include necessary information. Using the example above about calling Jane, make sure you include Jane’s phone number on your to-do list. Otherwise you may put the task off because you have to hunt for her phone number. Not having the necessary information to complete the task can result in procrastination.
* Set realistic time expectations. When you prepare your daily to-do list be realistic about how much time it is going to take you to complete each task. I find blocking off certain time frames during the day for various items is helpful. Give yourself a little cushion when you are estimating your time. It’s always better to get done sooner than to run out of time to complete your work.
* Stay focused. Even with a to-do list it is easy to get side-tracked with other things. Try not to let yourself lose focus on the priority items for the day. Once you’ve marked critical things off your list, then you can check Facebook or answer personal emails.
* Reward yourself. One way to stay focused and productive is to make sure you reward yourself when you have completed some of your to-do items. For example, schedule a little time in the day for something you enjoy after you complete a certain number of tasks. It makes it much more enjoyable.