Long to do lists are often a challenge for people. Most people feel demotivated and overwhelmed when they look at a list with more than 10 items on it. The longer the list is, the more likely we are to focus on the simple tasks we can do the fastest. We want to start things off quickly, many of us like immediate gratification for their efforts, and it makes the list look shorter. So we find the easiest tasks to get us going. We may have the intention to do some more complex tasks later, but invariably get sidetracked. And by the end of the day the list looks just as daunting as it did at the beginning. Sounds familiar? So what’s the cure?
The best time to write your to do list is at the end of the day, ready for tomorrow. Your last action is to gather all tasks outstanding from today, add tasks for tomorrow, and plan your schedule. Putting things on paper will clear your mind and you’ll have the schedule waiting for you to attend to fresh in the morning.
…and here’re 8 tips for managing your to do list:
1. Diarize it
Instead of keeping one long list write to do items in your daytimer / calendar according to when you will do them. If you have a larger project that you need to start, set aside time for writing it in your calendar. Create building blocks of time that will support you in completing the project. For example, half an hour a day adds up when you are working on a larger project. Schedule time to focus on what you want to achieve.
2. Group it
Divide tasks into categories (phone calls, errands, writing), so you gain momentum and save time by doing similar items at set times.
3. Prioritize it
Label the most important items on the list with the letter a, items of medium importance with the letter b, and items of least importance with the letter c, or arrange all items in order of their priority and work down from the top.
4. Highlight it
Rather than crossing completed items off the list which makes your accomplishments invisible, highlight items with a marker as you complete them. Seeing what you’ve already done creates motivational energy.
5. 80/20 it
We get 80 per cent of results from 20 per cent of work. Leverage your time and resources by concentrating on the 20 per cent of items on your list that will generate the greatest impact.
6. Prune it
Many 80 per cent items can usually be safely ignored or delegated to others. Do so, and cross them off your list.
7. Divide it
Keep separate lists: one for work and one for personal matters. Separate tasks within your list that can be done quickly in one day from long term tasks that will take more time to complete. Example: filing can be completed in a day, while restructuring the company can’t.
8. Capture it
Have a capture page where you write items, calls, communications, or things you’ll need to take action on. This page starts today and anything you capture today will happen tomorrow at the earliest. Let paper remember so you can forget.
Contact me for more NLP help with prioitizing and organizing your tasks.