Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To-Do Lists

Do you frequently feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do? Do you face a constant barrage of looming deadlines? Or do you sometimes just forget to do something important, so that people have to chase you to get work done?

All of these are symptoms of not keeping a proper "To-Do List". To-Do Lists are prioritized lists of all the tasks that you need to carry out. They list everything that you have to do, with the most important tasks at the top of the list, and the least important tasks at the bottom.

While this sounds a simple thing to do, it's when people start to use To-Do Lists properly that they often make their first personal productivity / time management breakthrough, and start to make a real success of their careers.

By keeping a To-Do List, you make sure that you capture all of the tasks you have to complete in one place. This is essential if you're not going to forget things. And by prioritizing work, you plan the order in which you'll do things, so you can tell what needs your immediate attention, and what you can quietly forget about until much, much later. This is essential if you're going to beat work overload. Without To-Do Lists, you'll seem dizzy, unfocused and unreliable to the people around you. With To-Do Lists, you'll be much better organized, and will seem much more reliable. This is very important!

Preparing a To-Do List
Start by writing down all of the tasks that you need to complete, and if they are large, break them down into their component elements. If these still seem large, break them down again. Do this until you have listed everything that you have to do, and until tasks are will take no more than 1-2 hours to complete. This may be a huge and intimidating list, but our next step makes it manageable!

Next, run through these jobs allocating priorities from A (very important, or very urgent) to F (unimportant, or not at all urgent). If too many tasks have a high priority, run through the list again and demote the less important ones. Once you have done this, rewrite the list in priority order.

You will then have a precise plan that you can use to eliminate the problems you face. You will be able to tackle these in order of importance or urgency. This allows you to separate important jobs from the many time-consuming trivial ones.

Using Your To-Do Lists
Different people use To-Do Lists in different ways in different situations: if you are in a sales-type role, a good way of motivating yourself is to keep your list relatively short and aim to complete it every day.

In an operational role, or if tasks are large or dependent on too many other people, then it may be better to keep one list and 'chip away' at it.

It may be that you carry unimportant jobs from one To-Do List to the next. You may not be able to complete some very low priority jobs for several months. Only worry about this if you need to – if you are running up against a deadline for them, raise their priority.

If you have not used To-Do Lists before, try them now: They are one of the keys to being really productive and efficient.

Key points:

Prioritized To-Do Lists are fundamentally important to efficient work. If you use To-Do Lists, you will ensure that:

· You remember to carry out all necessary tasks
· You tackle the most important jobs first, and do not waste time on trivial tasks.
· You do not get stressed by a large number of unimportant jobs.