Preparing Your To-Do List
To be well organized at work and with your team or group, you need to start using To-Do Lists. By using them, you will ensure that:
- You remember to carry out all necessary tasks.
- You tackle the most important jobs first, and don't waste time on trivial tasks.
- You don't get stressed by a large number of unimportant jobs.
I am actually a believer in using 3 different To-Do lists: a Master To-Do list; a Daily To-Do list; and a Do-Not-Do list.
- A Master To-Do list is where you write down all of the tasks that you need to complete during the month so you can wrap your head around everything that you need to do.
- Your Daily To-Do list is where you record what you have to do for the day.
- Your Do-Not-Do list is a list of all the activities that you should avoid during the day in an effort to be more productive.
So let’s set up your Master and Daily To-Do lists.
Step 1: At the beginning of the month, review your long-term goals. Write down all of the tasks for that month that will get you closer to accomplishing your goals, plus any “sub-tasks” that are required. This Master List is the foundation of your time planning system. As new goals, ideas, or responsibilities come up, add them to your Master List. Don’t trust them to memory.
Step 2: Once you have your Master To-Do list for the month, transfer tasks from your Master List to your Daily To-Do list depending on what day you plan on working on each item.
Step 3: The next step in the process is to prioritize your tasks based on their importance and urgency. If you’re not sure which items are more important look back over your vision and goals sheets. Always prioritize and schedule activities that will lead you in the direction of your vision and goals every single day. Put an “A” next to tasks that are most important and should absolutely be done by you. Put a “B” next to tasks that you can delegate or are less important. Place a “C” next to tasks that just aren't that important and can be done at a later time. If too many tasks have a high priority, run through the list again and demote the less important ones. Once you have each task in categories, decide the numerical order in which you will do each task. Your A-list should look like A-1, A-2, etc. The same with your B and C lists.
More importantly, if you prioritize intelligently, you will be focusing your time and energy on your high value activities, which will mean that you're going to be more productive and more in-control of your day.
Step 4: Categorize. One of the problems with To-Do Lists is that they tend to lump everything you need to do together into one big long list without any structure. Starting at the top and working your way down is not always the best way to get things done. As you get more and more things to do, your To-Do list becomes bigger and more chaotic, and pretty soon you get lost in all of the details. A good way to organize your To-Do lists when you transfer tasks from your Master To-Do List to your daily calendar is to group your tasks into categories, such as email, phone calls, errands, etc. It’s much easier and more efficient to do related tasks one after another than interspersing them with un-related tasks. For example, doing an email, call, email, call, text, and then a call will take you longer to do than if you did all of your emails at once, then your texts, then your calls, and then all of your errands at the same time.
Step 5: Figure out how much time you are going to allow yourself to do each task. If you give yourself all-day to finish your To-Do list, it will take you all day. Give yourself a time limit and get after it.
All of this up to this point should have taken you about 10 minutes. Planning does take time, but the time spent getting organized will be well worth it.
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