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Ten Tips for Effective To Do Lists

The To Do List is a key component of any time management system.

It is worth mentioning that a To Do List can actually be a number of lists. In my role I will have multiple “projects” each of which will have lists of tasks, some of which are delegated and some that I need to do myself. In addition I have personal tasks that I like to keep on a separate list. So I will always have multiple physical To Do Lists on the go … and I use my daily notebook to focus on today’s priorities and record what I actually achieve.

To Do lists are NOT just for work, they help you organize your life and in an increasingly complex world that is very valuable.

Here are Ten tips for using To Do Lists:

1. To Do Lists need to work for you… so you need your own “system”. Keep tinkering until you find something that works.
2. The most important thing is to get all of the tasks down on the list. If you do nothing else this is critical.
3. The next most important thing is to prioritize the tasks. Keep it simple, Steven Covey promotes a “First Things First” approach, some people use H (High), M (Medium), L (Low). Any system that works for you is good.
4. The best planners assign completion dates to their tasks … this is very powerful because it is another level of commitment to get the task done.
5. I always tell people NOT to use their daily notebook as their To Do List, but rather to keep a separate piece of paper (or an electronic list). This avoids having to transcribe the list every day and potentially missing items.
6.Add to the list as you go through the day and things come up.
7.Review the list every day, at a minimum. Some items may no longer be needed, some priorities might change etc.
8. Put EVERY task on the list that you are not doing right now… e.g. If you have a quick task come up and you do it right away then you don’t need to add it to the list (although some people like to use the list to track everything they do).
9.Keep the list with you at all times… so you can easily add things as they come up, or jot down ideas as they pop into your head.
10.Try something new with your lists every couple of months to see if you can improve it. Add priorities, add completion dates, add projects/tasks, try new electronic versions, try different size paper, use a pencil instead of pen, use red ink instead of black etc. It is interesting the little things that can make a difference for you.

“Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.”  Paul J Meyer

If you can develop a habit of using To Do Lists then it will help you in your job, and in your personal life. We all have busy schedules these days, and time is precious, so make the most of it!