I think the To Do list must be the most popular productivity tool on the planet. And it’s effective – ticking off jobs that have been done is as satisfying as a chip butty. You may think there is no room for improvement, here are six steps to super-charging your To Do list, and your day!
- Review your goals and plans before writing your To Do list. No goals or plans? Well that’s your first job. If you don’t know where you are going, and you don’t know how to get there, anything on your To Do list will be just spinning wheels. You might feel busy, but you are not systematically moving towards your goals. So at least get an outline plan written, with measureable milestones.
- Phrase tasks as questions. Most people love solving things and finding out if they can do things better. If you phrase tasks as a question you immediately challenge yourself. So instead of writing “Write email to Henry” rephrase it to “How can I help Henry understand the opportunities with the presentation on Tuesday?” You will end up with a better email, and be more engaged with the process.
- Define when something is done. Defining what we mean by “done” is often more complex than we think. Is the task to write the email, or is it to get Henry to add the resources necessary to win the business on Tuesday? By repeatedly asking yourself what you mean by done, you will end up with properly worded tasks, and jobs that actually get finished. Result!
- Never carry a task forward more than 3 days. If it’s been on your To Do list longer than 3 days, there's a problem. It is either too big to be done right now, and needs more planning by breaking it down into smaller tasks that can be done. Or it might not need doing at all, in which case stop cluttering up your head and your To Do list. If none of those apply, then for the love of God, just do it. Now.
- Review your To Do list at the end of the day. Ask yourself how effective your To Do list really was. Did it encourage you to think harder about your work? What got done and what didn’t get done, and why? Then write the following days To Do list before you finish up for the day.
- Stretch yourself, but don’t make your To Do list impossible. Stretch targets are fun and motivating. Impossibly long To Do list just don’t get taken seriously. If your To Do list could not possibly get done by three of you, you are either carrying over too many of yesterday’s tasks, or not planning your work properly. See step one!
What’s your top tip for a motivating and effective writing effective To Do list? Do tell!