To-do lists are great to keep track of everything that we need to do, but it gets flooded and we get lost in it, it can actually be counter productive.
Here are a couple of tips to help you with that:
1. Tougher tasks in the morning
As the day goes by, and we work really hard, we get more and more tired, and tasks become harder. To make sure we get things done even if we are tired, it’s important to have heavy/hard tasks done in the morning. That way, you can tackle them while you have the most energy, and when you start feeling depleted, you can jump to simpler tasks that you will still be able to get done even if tired.
If you do the opposite, chances are, your heavy tasks won’t get done, or not properly, and you will end having even more work on your plate.
2. Have routine tasks
There are always some tasks here and there that we have to do on a regular basis. Those kind of tasks generally could be done on the same day, at the same time. The more ‘routine’ it becomes, the less energy you will actually use to execute them since it you will so used to doing them therefore you are using less energy, even next to none.
As mentioned in tip #1, you might also want to plan those tasks in the afternoon when you are more tired.
3. Limit yourself
If you want to plan what tasks will be done when, you have to be able to know what time you need. Start paying attention to the time spent on your tasks by tracking your hours. That way, you’ll be able to fit the right amount of tasks in your day.
Another limit you want to impose yourself is the number of heavy/hard tasks you set in your day. Since they will use most of your time and energy, limit yourself to maximum 3 of those tasks per day.
And finally, limit yourself in the amount of hours you plan in your day. Keep in mind that tasks may take more time than planned, or you get disturbed, or something urgent may come up; book about 80 to 90% of your time only, leaving the rest for uncertainties. Gauge the percentage depending of your work environment. The more chaotic it is, the more buffer you want. There once was a time when I booked about 40-50% of my time only, knowing that I would get disturbed enough to fill up the rest!
Some have a hard time delegating, and although I won’t get into details on how to delegate in this article, I will emphasis on the fact that if you are in any position of management or leadership, delegating is part of your role and it’s very important to do or you will always be flooded with things to do.
5. Make your list clear
It’s important that you don’t waste time understanding your own list or trying to figure out what’s next. Make sure it’s well separated by taking these quick tips into consideration:
- Due dates: Must it get done today absolutely? Maybe you have more time then you think and you can tackle something else?
- Time required: If it’s for next week but you need to invest 40h to accomplish it, then it may be good to start before something that’s due in 2 days. Plan certain amounts of hours per day for these tasks.
- Importance VS Urgency: If may be urgent, but maybe it’s not really important, prioritize what you should tackle.
- Color coding: Depending of what you use for your tasks, you may want to use color coding to be able to separate urgent/important/not urgent tasks at a glance.
6. Limit meetings
Assuming the meetings are actually needed at all, and that your job role doesn’t resolve around meetings, avoid booking more than 2-3 hours a day. Meetings can take a lot of energy, making the rest of the day unproductive. Usually, meetings aren’t actually productive to start with, so maybe you can even reduce the number of meetings you have overall.
7. Use technology
A piece of paper or post-its for quick notes may do the job, but with today’s available technology, you can easily have your to-do lists available at all time. This lets you access it even if you are in a Taxi on your way for a meeting, or even lets you take some notes when you think of something while taking a walk. All of this can save an incredible amount of time, and reduce confusion looking for tasks amongst 15 pieces of paper or 25 post-it.
Also, these applications can have very useful functionalities like notifications or sharing. It may also be able to help you sort everything out with dates or colors.
There are tons of tips to help with to-do lists. There are also various ways to list your tasks, or many applications/platforms available today. What’s important is to find what fits your needs and your work environment. One application or technique that works for someone may very well be useless for someone else.
Pay attention if it suits you, try different options, and fine-tune all the time. Don’t hesitate to share any tips you may have!