List making is something that varies from person to person. Some of us border on obsessive, organising even the smallest tasks into a series of concise, numbered bullet points. Others prefer to wing it, scribbling important deadlines and phone numbers on the backs of our hands.
But writing even the most simple To-Do list almost forces us to set concrete goals, making them more effective than just thinking about vague objectives. The problem is, even if we do make To-Do lists, chances are, we’re not actually executing them as well as we could.
While sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of everything, here are some tips to help you find a few more minutes in your schedule to tick off those To-Do’s for good.
Meet the MITs (Most Important Tasks). Look at your list and mark those tasks of top priority, taking into consideration the urgency and importance of each. Once you have established your priorities, follow them, by starting your day off with these items. Give more time to tasks that are more important, and then move onto those that are urgent, but not as important. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on things you can finish quickly, just so you can tick them off.
Stay specific. Make sure all items on your To-Do list are as specific as possible. Instead of “engage with Federal politicians”, try “draft introductory email for government engagement strategy”. This ensures your tasks are physical actions that can actually be finished in one sitting.
Allocate timing. Now that you’ve made the list (and checked it twice), estimate how long you think each task will take to complete. It’s easy to underestimate how long tasks take, so make sure you account for time used not only for writing, sending and presenting, but also for interruptions, thinking, developing and research. Always leave about 15 minutes of “cushion time” in between items on the list, just in case something pops up.
Be realistic. Don’t pack your schedule or overestimate what you can actually accomplish in one day. Putting too much on your calendar can lead to cutting corners, sloppy work or just being frustrated that you can't get it all done.
Start fresh. Make a new To-Do list every day. Not only does this prevent old items from clogging up your agenda, but also acts as motivation to actually get things done!
Call for back up. If you feel like you’re juggling way too many tasks than you can handle, it may be time to bring in some help. Spend your time on high-value activities and ask a colleague to sub in for some other not-so-demanding tasks. This will ease pressure on yourself, and can help you be more efficient by stopping you from worrying about other looming deadlines.
Time is our most valuable commodity and the quantity is limited. So make sure you make the most yours by taking note of these tips and ticking off your To-Do list in a productive manner.