One of the secrets of getting more done is to make a to do list every day, keep it visible, and use it as a guide to action as you go through the day.
Jean De La Fontaine
I never thought of myself as someone who likes to write lists but I have to confess nowadays I feel lost when I haven’t created my list for the day and know what I am doing. Here are some tips I use when creating my ToDo list:
ToDo list apps
There are many apps available now that are compatible with phones and PCs, my current favourite is Wunderlist (www.wunderlist.com) which has a free and paid version. It has the ability to create folders, reminders, share tasks, set deadlines, write notes, print your list and it synchronises between PCs and phones. You can make it as simple or complex as you require.
Previously I used Toodledo (www.toodledo.com) and this has many of the same functions as Wunderlist and also has the ability to prioritise all your tasks which I found very useful.
Two favourite points I like with Wunderlist: if you receive an e-mail you need to action you can forward it to your Wunderlist app and it will create it into a task on your ToDo list. Secondly, it has a comments feature so if for example one of your tasks is “phone X” but they are out of the office until the following Wednesday you can write these notes in the comments box and they are handy when you call again the following week.
How do I use my ToDo list?
I make sure everything I need to do is on my ToDo list, basically using it as a “brain dump”. This way I know I have captured everything in one place. When I enter a new task I assign it to a specific folder and give it a date when I want to action it. This way I can then forget about it until it needs to be done.
I work on projects that are scheduled in the diary throughout the year and they generally have the same actions that need to happen. So I will put all these standard actions onto Wunderlist with the date I want to work on them, even if they are 6-months ahead.
I also give myself a buffer of time so whenever I can I will schedule way ahead of time, then when tasks appear on my daily ToDo list I have the option to action then or reschedule to another date if I am tight on time. However, when I see the task it gives me an awareness the project is coming up.
Update your ToDo list the night before
I always look at my ToDo list the night before to see what is scheduled for the following day and to reschedule anything I haven’t completed that day. I try and make sure I have space each day for the urgent and unexpected tasks that I am not aware of like a client needing immediate help, or if one of my children is sick and I need to juggle my working hours.
At the end of the week I also like to look at the following week and see what is scheduled on my ToDo list. This gives me the opportunity to rearrange some of the timings over the week and I have an awareness of my workload and pressure points.
How many tasks should be on your ToDo list?
There are different views on how many tasks should be on your daily ToDo list. If you have 40 tasks you are not going to action them all. However, if you have 3 tasks and one of them is for example, create website, who are you kidding, that’s not going to happen either!
Personally, I break down all my tasks into small bite size chunks and then schedule them accordingly. Occasionally I may have 20 tasks – I know, wrong! – and here is where I justify myself…. they will be small tasks like “telephone X” or “arrange meeting for Y” and will only take a couple of hours to complete them all. It is having a realistic sense on how long each task will take.
I also go through my daily list and put the tasks into blocks so everything I need to e-mail I will do in one block, phone calls in another block, research in another, etc, etc. I will then decide which I can do the quickest, which is the best time of day for me to do certain things, when am I in flow and energised to do some tasks, which ones I need to “eat that frog” and do first thing.
Printing off your ToDo list
Finally, I still like to print a paper copy of my daily actions, purely because there is something very satisfying about crossing through each task when completed!
Working with a ToDo list definitely makes me more productive and organised. It is important to find what works best for your own style of working and hopefully these tips have been useful.