I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to lists. There is just something attractively sensible about cataloguing needs, goals, and responsibilities — and something uniquely satisfying in crossing off completed tasks. I have a number of lists going on at any given time: chores, business duties, personal goals, financial goals. And now I’ve just given you a list of my lists. Ha!
Given my love of lists, imagine my joy at finding this great article from lifehacker.com on lists and their importance. Because a to-do list is your tool to facilitate action in your work and life, it is important to know how to make an effective one. Otherwise, as lifehacker states, “it can be a big fat pillar of undone time bombs taunting you and your unproductive inadequacy.”
A to-do list is basically a list of tasks from you to you. You are communicating with yourself as to all of the deeds etc. that need to be accomplished. You should be clear and specific. I have broken down and abbreviated the lifehacker tips. If you would like to read the complete article instead, go here.
- Break it down. Instead of writing “Clean out the office,” break it down to smaller, easier-to-tackle subtasks. This will ease the daunting nature of all multistep tasks, while allowing you to cross off even more items. Which, as I said, I personally love.
- Use active verbs and be specific. Just writing the name of a contact doesn’t tell you what action needs to be taken with that contact. Even if you think you’ll remember, using specific, action verbs will both encourage you and free up mental space.
- Keep it short. Here I actually differ a bit from the lifehacker tips. While I agree that an overly long list is “overwhelming and depressing,” my advice is to keep two lists going instead of ignoring things you know need to be done simply because you feel your list is too long. One list can be of an absolutely-need-to-be-done nature, while the other can be for longer term goals or items that can only be completed once the first list has been checked off.
- Keep it moving. Here I agree with lifehacker. By keeping your lists to-the-point and short(er), you should be able to cross items off everyday — thereby allowing you to add more items to the list, to move the “longer term” items to your “do it now” list.
- Keep track of completed items. This will keep your spirits up as you will have a growing list of accomplishments every week.
- Pay attention to what works. This is my own addition to the lifehacker tips. Pay attention to what works for your list and what doesn’t. Play around with format — written, on your blackberry, in your calendar — and style. Offer yourself rewards for completed tasks. Try different things to find the system that is most effective for you. In this way all those to-dos might actually get done.