Ever feel you have been super busy all day, but really got nothing done? Or forgot to do something really important? If this is you, you’re either not managing your to do list effectively or worse, you don’t have one!
Managing a To Do List is one of the most important skills successful people in business have. It is fundamental in effectively navigating through a busy work day and making sure crucial tasks are accomplished.
By keeping a To-Do List, you make sure that your tasks are written down all in one place so you don’t forget anything important. By prioritizing these tasks, you concentrate on what needs your immediate attention, and what you can leave for later.
Although, keeping a properly structured and thought-out To-Do List sounds simple to do, you’d be surprised how many people fail to use them effectively. This article should give you a few pointers on how to make the “To Do List” your best friend.
Creating Your To Do List
Ironically, the first thing to do each day should not be your to do list—it should already be waiting for you when you arrive at your desk. Here’s what you should do:
- Put aside 15 minutes at the end of each day to write tomorrow’s to do list.
- Make sure you check tomorrow’s calendar and schedule to see how it may affect your list. (Tomorrow’s to do list will likely consist of meetings and any crucial deadlines that are fast approaching)
- Consult today’s to do list and focus on any outstanding tasks. (These remaining jobs will likely feature on tomorrow’s list)
- Take into account previously skipped tasks. (If you’ve bumped a task from one day to the next, this task should automatically get a higher priority)
Now with these key points in mind, write down the tasks you will be facing. For the time being, don’t worry about how important or unimportant they are. Focus on creating a list of what you need to get done. Do this until you have listed everything that you have to do, with all tasks shown as manageable pieces of work.
Now that you have your list, run through the tasks and LABEL them with a level of priority. When it comes to prioritization, people use different criteria to determine how their tasks should be ranked. Some use a color coded system, while others use the basic number system. There is no right or wrong way to go about as long as it works for you. I personally find that a traffic light system works best. See below:
After your to do list is complete, quickly scan through the items and classify them with the above colors in your head. Grab some fluorescent pens and mark each task with its respective color, and then review.
Although using a paper list is an easy way to get started, software-based To Do Lists can be more efficient. These can remind you of events or tasks that are due soon, they can also be synchronized with your phone or email, and they can be shared with others on your team, if you’re collaborating on a project.
With so many time management software programs available, it’s hard to know know which one to use. You can simply use MS Word or MS Excel to manage your To-Do Lists. Some versions of Microsoft Outlook, and other email services such as Gmail, have task lists and To-Do Lists as standard features. One in particular, “Any.do“, is a popular online task management tool that will sync your information on the cloud allowing access across multiple platforms. It can even show you your To-Do List tasks on the calendar. Other similar services include Todoist and Podio which provide added features.
Todoist allows you to manage projects of any complexity by creating nested-tasks, adding deadlines, assigning priorities, and using color-coding. Also, Todoist automatically synchronizes your tasks across all your devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops – so you always have up-to-date access.
Podio is a social collaboration platform that allows teams to create customized work spaces for internal and external workflows. It helps groups manage and complete projects more effectively while eliminating redundancy and reducing 1-on-1 communication (This option maybe too much for your everyday needs, but worth taking a look at when tackling big projects).
One of the biggest advantages to using a software-based approach to manage your To-Do List is that you can update it easily. For example, instead of scratching off tasks and rewriting the list every day, software allows you to move and prioritize tasks quickly.
To be well organized, you need to be using a To-Do List. By doing so, you will ensure that:
- You remember to complete all necessary tasks.
- You handle the most important jobs first, and don’t waste time on trivial tasks.
- You don’t get stressed by an overwhelming number of unimportant jobs.
To draw up a Prioritized To-Do List simply jot down all of the tasks that you must carry out. Mark the importance of the task next to it, with a priority from 1 (very important) to 5 (unimportant). Rewrite the list into this order of importance. Then carry out the jobs at the top of the list first. These are the most important, most beneficial tasks to complete.
Using a software-based approach to manage your To-Do List has added advantages. Many programs, in today’s market place, can be synced via the cloud which gives you access to your information everywhere including your smart phone, which make it much easier to manage, prioritize and move tasks around.