Be More Productive Tip 4: Tackling Your TODO list

The problem with not managing well normally boils down to:

  • You don’t collect everything in your head because you don’t always have your list available
  • Your list is such as mess that you do not know which one to do first
  • Your tasks are not well written and are so vague/”big” that you do not know how or where to start
  • When you are at the place you want to do something you don’t have your list with you to remind what needs to be done
  • Because you don’t always have your list available to get everything gathered into one place, you don’t trust your list as the dependable source of all you have to get done

The “Getting Things Done” process is a way to relearn and improve how you manage your life’s TODO lists. The smartphone and web are probably the best things that happen to task management. You can collect tasks wherever you are because you probably always have your  phone with you.

The first item on a highly successful to-do list:  Make a better to-do list. Your list shouldn’t be another source of anxiety. And if you have a sloppy, out of control list of things to do, thats exactly what it will be: a huge reminder of what you have left to do instead of a roadmap to success. A well-maintained list is an essential tool for staying grounded, for saving your energy and for doing things rather than trying to remember what to do.

To start with, a successful, manageable TODO list should be limited to TASKS:  specific things that can be tackled right away and finished fairly soon. For example, if Client X needs you to fix why they can’t access their VPN, instead of listing “solve client x’s problem” write, “update Client Xs VPN software” as your first task. If that doesn’t work, add your next step task. don’t leave such a vague item that you can’t cross it off when you complete a portion of the event. For more difficult projects, this will help you see that you are truly making progress, otherwise “solve Client x’s problem” could stay on your list for months and you will feel like its never going to be resolved even though you have actually completed many relevant and  important tasks.

To help you keep from procrastinating tasks (and over-scheduling your day!), treat them like appointments. Set a time and date to do them, and do them. Just like you wouldn’t blow-off a meeting with your manager or a client, don’t blow off your task. Treat it just like any other appointment on your calendar: by attending to it promptly and within the time allotted.

Lastly, make sure you are using a system you TRUST. Your have to determine what bests for you, what method helps you to consistently add items to your list the moment they pop into your head or present themselves. Whather that’s a small notebok and pen, or a smartphone app, then get to the point that when “oh yeah, the cake for Kiddo’s party needs to be picked up this afternoon at 5!”, you pull out that list and jot down “TODAY, 5 PM: pick up cake at Cake R Us.” Your list should be something you trst, so now you can stop worrying about not remembering to get Kiddo’s cake and ruining their 6th birthday party, which they will never forgive you for …

By they way, they WILL forgive you, so forgive yourself, and make next year better by showing everyone, and yourself, that your TODO list is complete, manageable, and leads you to success!

More posts in the Productivity Tip Series:
Log Your Day
Plan Your Day
Prioritize, Delegate, & Do Quality Work