I’ve worked with a number of clients this last month on productivity and to-do lists. We all want to get tasks done, do them well and efficiently, and do them quickly and confidently so we can get on to something else. Sound familiar?
I’ve gained a lot of insight into productivity lately, but let’s start with just 4 tips to increase your productivity by improving your to-do list:
Write down everything, but be specific.
If I don’t write something down, like an idea or appointment or task or phone number, I absolutely WILL NOT remember it later. I have lots of thoughts in my head, and things get lost up there if I don’t write them down.
When I am working on a project I don’t like to break my focus to act on ideas or tasks that come to my mind, so I make sure to jot those down to be reviewed later. This helps me stay focused while keeping those good ideas!
In addition, an article I’m reading suggests that if we get stuck on our To-Do list, we may need to break our tasks down even further and be very specific. This works in project, production and operations management, so we can make it work for time management, too. Here is the deal:
If there are items on your list that continue to not get done, it’s possible you have not broken it down into small enough pieces. If you have
“1. buy paper towels,
2. call Mom,
3. get a job and
4. run a marathon”
on your list, and you wonder why #3 and 4 aren’t happening, it is because the task descriptions are too vague. Try “update my resume and send it to my friend in HR for review”, or “buy new sneakers and sign up for weekend training club” as task items instead, and your tasks are more likely to get completed.
A To-Do list requires us To Do Something.
A To-Do list is not called a “wouldn’t it be nice” list, or a “gee I hope someone does these things” list. No, it’s a To-Do list. The tasks on the To-Do list require action and effort.
Writing tasks down only helps IF you actually act on them, too. Collect those random scraps of paper, notebooks and post-it notes from all over, and consolidate the ideas and tasks into one main to-do list, or perhaps one for each area of your life (like a Home Improvement list, a Professional Development list, a Some Day / Bucket list), etc.
Write them all down, Yes, and then grab your calendar and make appointments to get things done. Create a deadline around “update my resume and send it to my HR friend” by contacting the friend and promising to email it by Thursday. Make an appointment on your calendar to buy your sneakers and sign up for the running club on the way home from work tomorrow. You have to process your great ideas and tasks, add them to those lists and commit to getting them done.
Make your To-Do list mobile, and take it with you.
Keep your list mobile, either in a small notebook, on your phone or even In the Cloud with apps on your smart phone. Make it mobile and take it with you so that
- You are always ready to act on your To-Do list tasks as planned or if your schedule changes;
- You can add to it as ideas and tasks occur to you; and
- You can use it is a decision making tool for how to manage your time and get things done.
Know Your Three.
Every day, review your To-Do List and choose the three things that absolutely need to get done today. There may be more, but choose your Three. Choose what has to get done, or what is easy to do, or what is most likely to get done. Just choose and commit to three. And if they are quick and easy and done in 10 minutes, Yes – you have to pick three more. Come on, Do those To-Dos!
Give one of these a try this week, and get some of your To-Dos Done!