To-do lists are one of my favourite things. That may make me a geek, but I don’t care! I make a to-do list every day. Covering the important tasks like send the client an update through to the ordinary ones like make lunch.
I find that to-do lists are a great way to focus your mind, organise your thoughts and more importantly get stuff done.
Everyone tends to have their own style when it comes to making lists. My husband is well aware that he isn’t allowed to touch mine as I have a particular way of ticking things off! Also surely half the fun of to-do lists is marking things done? If you haven’t found your own style yet then here are a few different techniques to try out.
List it all
This is the most basic. In short, write down everything, and I mean everything, you need to do. For this list to be successful you need to break your tasks down so it’s no good putting ‘complete report’. You need to say what each step is.
- Research report topic
- Write a first draft of the report
- Revise the draft and tweak
- Send to Bob for proofreading
- Complete second draft of the report
- Create a PDF of the report
- Send the report to the client
You can then go through your whole list and prioritise. I tend to just pop a number next to each task to show what order I’m going to complete it. Then off you go!
The SUG method
We’re moving into more technical ground here. This method comes from consultant David Nour who suggests that you ask yourself the following three questions:
- How serious is this task or issue?
- How urgent is the task?
- Will the issue grow if I leave it?
You can then create three columns – high, medium (relating to seriousness) and yes/no (for growth) and categorise your tasks accordingly.
Just 3 things
For some, a to-do list can be overwhelming. It quickly spirals into a terrifyingly long list of tasks you know won’t get done. That’s when you need to use the just 3 things list. The way this list works is that simple, there should only be the 3 most important things to achieve on it. The rule of 3 forces you to keep you focused and to really assess your priorities. If you complete all 3 tasks then, by all means, add in extra smaller ones, but only once you’ve completed your priorities!
The Kanban method
This method uses one of my favourite stationery items, post-it notes. Find a board, or a wall and split it into three sections. To-do, doing and done. Write each task on a post-it note and pop it in the right column. You can add as much detail as you want to – maybe a red sticker if you’re stuck on a task. This helps give you a really visual, interactive overview of where you are with your work.
Pen or computer
Now no matter how digitally advanced the world is I will always write a list out. There is nothing like the satisfaction of physically crossing something off. Though not everyone shares this joy! There are many apps out there that can be used as a handy to-do list so it’s with you wherever you go. This one is most definitely a personal preference and it might be worth investigating a few to see which one you get on with.
When it’s all just too much
There may come a time where you don’t even know where to start. You have tasks coming out of your ears and it all feels a bit overwhelming. At this point, I’d suggest using the Eisenhower box as your starting point. This handy exercise helps you to identify what is urgent and important – so should be done first, while working out what isn’t worth doing. After completing this exercise you should have a prioritised to-do list ready to work through!
I’m not saying that you need to start writing daily to-do lists that remind you to eat. But a to-do list can be a great method of keeping you on track, along with helping you see what a successful day you’ve had! If they haven’t worked for you before then maybe you just haven’t found the right one for you. It’s out there though so keep looking!