If you’re having difficulties completing your daily to-do list, we’re here to help with six tips. Are you typically faced with a long list of things to do at work that never seems to end?
If you’ve answered yes, you’re probably not making the most effective to-do list. Perhaps you’ve set yourself up with an unrealistic number of tasks to complete, or you may not be prioritising them in order or urgency and importance.
Your to-do list should help you stay on track. So here’s how you can make it work for you – so you get through it more productively and efficiently.
1. Declutter your list
Do you really need everything on one list? Start by looking for any tasks that could be eliminated completely, such as something that should be completed by someone else on your team.
Your master list should be focused. It should consist only of tasks that need to be completed within the day. If there are too many things on your list, you will feel overwhelmed. And it’s not satisfying to never be able to complete your list.
2. Have different lists
For tasks that do not need to be done within the day because they are part of a bigger project or have a deadline that is further out, put them on a list separate from your master list. You could have two or three different lists, depending on how many projects you are working on.
At the end of each day, review all your other lists to see which tasks need to be moved to your master list, to be completed the following day.
3. Prioritise urgent tasks
An urgent task has serious negative consequences if you do not meet the deadline. You’ll want to put those at the top of your list before anything else.
Next to each urgent task, to help you focus, write down the time it needs to be completed by.
4. After urgent tasks are done, work on the important ones next
Important tasks can vary from one person to the next, but in general, they are tasks that are related to your goals at work.
Resist any temptation to take it slow and start off with less important tasks because doing so will put you behind schedule. As days are unpredictable and unforeseen issues may crop up in the middle of the day, you’re leaving your most important tasks up to chance. Even if you really don’t finish everything on your list, at the very least you would have done the most important one.
Here’s a tip: Limit your to-do list to a square sticky note, which will force you to prioritise quickly. You’ll be motivated to list the most important tasks first before you run out of space.
5.. Be specific when writing down your tasks
People often write vague notes. A good to-do list should help jog your memory the moment you look at it, so be as specific with every task – you don’t want to waste time trying to remember what it is. For example, instead of writing “send e-mail”, write “send e-mail to team to remind them about changes to the launch date”.
Avoid vague-sounding action words, such as “develop” or “plan”, as that may deter you from completing a task. A word like “plan” could imply that it would take awhile and you might end up putting it off.
If the task includes calling someone, put the person’s phone number in the list.
6. Track the amount of time you spend on each task
This would help you refine your list for the day. By tracking how long you take for each task, future estimates will be more accurate and you will have a better gauge of how many tasks you can complete in a day.