To-do: Improve your task list
A to-do list is a must-have tool for managing your time, but many people use it poorly. For your to-do list to work, follow these principles:
- Keep it with you. Half of our readers who responded to last month’s poll keep their to-do list on paper in some form, such as a notebook or executive planner. Thirty-eight percent use a software application or a simple digital note. One person created a customized Excel spreadsheet. Any format that works for you is fine, as long as you can easily refer to it and add new items. I was surprised that nearly 10% said they keep their to-do list in their head. Don’t rely on your memory alone; writing the list clears your mind to focus on more important work.
- Break it down. A common mistake that people make in writing their to-do list is jotting down projects instead of tasks. Break large assignments, such as preparing performance reviews, into specific actions. Tip: Start each item with a very specific verb. Instead of “Performance Reviews,” write items such as “Send self-assessment forms,” “Review salary budget,” “Draft Sue’s review,” “Draft Bob’s review,” “Determine raises,” etc.
- Prioritize. Avoid the temptation to knock off the easy tasks and delay the difficult ones until another day. Before you leave the office, prepare tomorrow’s to-do list and choose your top three priorities, the items you must complete to be satisfied by day’s end. When you enter the office in the morning, immediately begin working on the first one, before you become sidetracked by any of those emails in you inbox.
- Put information at your fingertips. A well-written to-do list makes it easy for you to begin working on the next task. If you must make a phone call, put the person’s number on your list. If you are using an electronic to-do list you may even be able to link to documents that you need for a task.
- Capture what you’ve done. When you write a daily list well and manage your time effectively, you will complete it by day’s end. But you’re highly unlikely to reach the end of your master to-do list, the one that records everything you must do in the future. The to-do items can seem endless, because they are. Therefore, seeing what you already have accomplished is important for your motivation and morale. Many applications allow you to strike through completed items and choose to see them or hide those from view. If you use a written list, keep an “Accomplishments” list too. That will show your work and allow you to analyze how you’ve spent your time. Reviewing what you have done feels great and allows you to easily remember your achievements when you apply for a new position.
The Organized Executive’s Priority One
Strategies for Improving the Way You Work
Changing how you work doesn’t happen overnight. If you want to make the most of time you spend working, you must make a consistent and ongoing effort. The Organized Executive’s Priority One presents you with a system for doing just that.
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Learn the secrets to:
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The Organized Executive’s Priority One is a must-have resource for the busy leader who needs to accomplish more in less time.
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