The Eagle Blog

Ten Tips for Effective "To Do Lists"

Today is my first day back in the office after a holiday break of more than a week. It is an excellent opportunity for me to practice what I preach and use good time management techniques to get back into the swing as quickly as possible.

Last May I wrote a blog entry about the First Day Back in the Office after a vacation which has some good tips. Today however I would like to focus in on the To Do List which I believe to be the backbone 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. My To Do List needs are therefore different than people in other roles, so you need to develop your own system.

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 prioritise 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.

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!

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