Tuesday, 28 March 2017

  The To-Do or The Not To-Do (List) .....
  ..... That Is The Question
List-making is a pretty personal thing. Some of us border on obsessive, whereas others prefer to wing it, writing important telephone numbers on the backs of their hands or on a scrap of paper. But even the most basic outline of must-do tasks can help us tackle important goals.

Writing out a list of things to do, almost forces us to carry out the task, instead of just thinking about it.  Not only that, it helps to remember the important stuff when life gets busy, distractions get in the way and deadlines loom.

Many of those who believe in the power of a to-do list might not know how to make a successful one.  There’s no point writing a list with 50 tasks, that’s simply not achievable in a day, so let me share some tips to help get things done.

1.  Choose a style best suited to you
To-do lists come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s all about what works for you.  Research suggests that for some people, writing a list by hand is the best way to tackle things, but others prefer to embrace ‘modern day’ technology.  There’s a huge range of apps which can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet and if this is the way you prefer to work, start downloading. Personally, I’m a pen and paper girl, but I suspect you already knew that.  I like nothing better that a beautiful list book to help me get through what seems like a mountain of tasks.

2. Make multiples
Create multiple lists, that way you won’t feel overwhelmed.  Start with a master list, showing EVERYTHING you want to accomplish, then break it down into smaller lists.  There’s no point having personal tasks, such as de-frost the freezer on the same list as your workplace, you can’t defrost the freezer when you’re sitting in the office, so leave it off.  Once you’ve split your tasks into categories; personal, family and work, break the list down again, so that you only write down what you need to achieve that week.  Finally make a daily list, showing what is most important, those things that absolutely have to be achieved that day.  And there you have it, everything that’s been swirling around in your head is now documented and ready to tackle.

3. Keep it simple
Be realistic on your daily list, 50+ things are unlikely to get done, so identify what’s most important for that day.  It may mean you need to make a phone call for an event that’s happening the following month.  If that’s the case, only list the phone call, don’t deal with the event, that can wait. There shouldn’t be more than 10 items, the rest can go on the weekly projects list or the master list.

4. Identify your most important tasks
Start the list with at least two items that absolutely must get done today, so you don’t end up cleaning the car instead of finishing a project report due tomorrow. Even if the rest of the list stays untouched, the really meaningful stuff will get finished.

5. Feel good about your progress
Even crossing off silly stuff and menial tasks helps us feel super-productive, so do it.  Or highlight it.  Or pop a tick next to it – whatever makes you feel a sense of achievement.

6. Break it down
Goals such as “write website” are too vague and a little intimidating, meaning we delay tackling them. Instead, break the task down, for example ….. choose a template, decide on a colour scheme, decide on a font …. and then you can start writing the content (not all in one day, obviously!)

7. Stay specific
Everything on your daily list should be actions that can be completed and finished that day.  It’s equally important that it includes tasks only the List Writer can do.  For general projects that require lots of time or other people’s help, list specific steps you can take towards your goal, but delegate the rest.

8. Include it all
For every task on the list, include as much information as possible so there’s literally no excuse for not getting the job done. For example, if the task involves calling someone, include that person’s phone number so you won’t waste time scrambling for it later.

9. Time it
Now that you’ve made the list, put a time estimate next to every item. It might even help to turn your list into a kind of schedule, that way you make the difficult or important telephone call at the start of the day, not 5 minutes before the person you’re calling leaves for the day.

10. Enjoy it
Embrace your daily successes, feel smug and feel in control and enjoy all that extra time coming your way.  The hardest part is starting the initial ‘Master List’, but once that’s done, it really is plain sailing from there.

The key now is to make a new list every day, so the same old items don’t clog up the agenda. It’s also a useful way to make sure we actually get things done and don’t just spend time decorating the paper with fancy highlighters – as therapeutic as that may be!  Finally, put your to-do list somewhere you will see it regularly, there’s no point hiding it in a drawer.

This article may help you, or you may still prefer to write on the back of your hand, but if you do want to start organising yourself a little better, pop in and see us, we can help steer you in the right direction.