05 Feb 2018

To Do List 101

Keeping a “To Do” list is an essential element for successful organization. It doesn’t matter whether you create and keep a digital list using an app on your phone or tablet, a fancy software program on your computer or use pen and paper. As with any tool however, the key to its successful implementation is using it daily so that it becomes habit and part of your routine. The following are tips to help you create and use a “To Do” list effectively.


Short and Sweet

For daily “To Do” lists, you typically want to limit the number of items on the list to between eight and ten or less. Think of your daily “To Do” list as the priority items. You can keep a “Master To Do List” to keep track of everything in one place where you have prioritized the list, set start and completion dates, etc. But there will be things that pop up daily that are short term and you can prioritize those onto your daily list. There may even be individual elements of larger projects and tasks that ft into your daily schedule. The idea behind keeping your daily list short is that you don’t overwhelm yourself and more than likely by the end of the day you will have crossed most of them off – giving you a sense of accomplishment which motivates you to keep forging ahead.


If NeceSSARY Keep Separate Lists

For some people it may be better to keep work and home lists separate. You will know what is most appropriate for you. If you choose to keep only one daily “To Do” list – consider segmenting the list – several tasks for work, several tasks for home, etc. Only use separate lists if helps you prioritize tasks for each day by the role you are in when completing them. If you find with multiple lists you find that one list consistently gets done, but the other just sits, then maybe one list is better for you.



Once you’ve listed everything you need to accomplish for the day, number the items in order of priority. Do the most important items first and you’ll feel the biggest sense of achievement. I typically try to tackle the most difficult or biggest tasks first – doing so gives me a much greater sense of accomplishment and it also means things after that are usually easier to complete and get done faster. Place the lower priority items lower on the list. By putting the more difficult tasks first, you also lessen the chances of having the same items perpetually on your list. Most importantly remember to be flexible. You never know what each day will bring – what was the top priority may no longer be the most critical thing to complete. I typically find I am more successful if I prepare the next day’s list(s) at the close of the current day when I’m reviewing what I’ve completed. Again, if you have a sense of accomplishment it motivates you to succeed. And finally, don’t make yourself feel guilty if you don’t complete every item on your list. Things will come up and priorities will change.


Set a time limit

Wherever possible set a time limit for items on the list. If you are keeping a master list and break down larger tasks by the smaller individual elements you ensure that you don’t do something out of order that will cost you valuable time. For daily lists it may be as simple as how long you think it should take to complete and you can prioritize what part of the day you want to work on it and complete.


Evaluate and adjust

Remember, a “To Do” list is a working document. Some days you will easily breeze through the list – other days you may find what you started with has been completely thrown out or reprioritized within the first minutes of the day. Things will always be changing. Some items may become no longer important or unnecessary. Being flexible is critical to your success.


Keep it with You

I’ve talked before about keeping a notebook with you that you keep track of everything throughout the day. If you enter your list(s) in the same notebook and that notebook is always with you it is much easier to refer to things, see which things are needing to be reprioritized etc. Don’t create extra work for yourself by having little pieces of paper all over your desk. If you are better using an app or a digital method for tracking then do so. Having everything in one location also gives you a visual record of the work you have done. You likely will be surprised to see how much you are really getting accomplished daily!


Hopefully you find these tips useful and they will ensure you are effectively using your “To Do” list.

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