Friday 4 September 2015

Super-charge Your Day - Six Steps to a Better To Do List

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, but here are six steps to super-charging your To Do list, and your day! 
  1. 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, you can’t know how to get there. So anything on your To Do list will be just spinning wheels.  You might feel busy, but you are not systematically moving towards your goals.  Get an outline plan written, with measureable milestones.
  2. Phrase tasks as questions.  Most people love solving problems and finding out if they can do things better.  If you phrase tasks as a question, you immediately challenge yourself.  Instead of writing “Write email to Henry” rephrase it to “How can I help Henry understand Tuesday's  presentation?”  You will write a better email, and be more engaged with your work.
  3. 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 necessary resources to do the project?  By repeatedly asking what you mean by "done", you will have meaningful tasks, and jobs that actually get finished. 
  4. 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.  Perhaps it is too big to be done right now, and needs more planning.  Break it down into smaller tasks that can be done.  Or it might not need doing at all, in which case stop cluttering up your To Do list.  If neither apply, then for the love of God, just do it.  Now. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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!

Tuesday 1 September 2015

The Power in Now

How many jobs on your to do list are truly today’s tasks?  And how many are yesterdays or last week’s or even last year’s jobs?  Having a pile of jobs that haven’t been done is demotivating and distracting.

Getting up to date and staying up to date is the holy grail of time management.  If you are only dealing with today’s issues, everything gets done faster.  The issue is fresh – you only have to think about it once, deal with it once, and then it’s gone.  So your to do list becomes shorter, and your mind is clear to deal with today’s issues.
But – there are some catches.  Before you rush off to do every job that’s crying out for attention ask yourself three simple questions:
  1. Does it need to be done at all?  I don’t mean leaving a problem for someone else to pick up, because that just passes work down the line, but is it a job that’s necessary?  Sorting playing cards into sequence (a real example – honestly) is a scary one, but there may be others if you look closely.
  2. Can it be automated?  Perhaps not instantly, but if the job gets done every day or every week by many people it could well be worth automating.
  3. Can it be delegated?  Empowering someone else to take responsibility for chunks of work spreads the load and increases job satisfaction all round.
If the answer is “no” to those three things, and the job will take no more than about 15 – 30 minutes, then you should go ahead and get it done.  Any job that takes less than 30 minutes doesn’t warrant being planned in and done later.  And the more you knock down, the fewer you will have to deal with tomorrow.
If it does take longer than 30 minutes, then it needs to be planned for some future time.  So jobs should only have two options – Do It Now or Plan it In.  Adding it to the ever growing pile of jobs to be done later shouldn't be an option!