To-do lists. Some people swear by them. Some write them down just to ignore them. Others are so far out to sea that the shore of an organised, civilised, sane to-do list is a speck on the horizon. It’s okay. Have a paddle. Let’s get your feet on dry land.
Here are 10 quick to-do list tips for better time management.
1. Schedule for tomorrow at the end of today
The last thing you need at the end of the day is to be thinking about work on the way home. Scribble down a quick to-do list for the next day just before you leave. Lock those buzzing thoughts inside the office, not inside your head. You can come back and update it in the morning if you must.
2. Keep it simple, stupid.
Keep it short, manageable and flexible. Repeat after me: ‘I can only do what I have time for.’ Tell your boss, tell your colleagues, tell yourself.
Now that you can see what you don’t have time for, ask for help.
4. Build a might to-do list
You have a whole load of ‘I’ll get around to it at some point’ projects. You need to sort the inventory or clean out your in-tray. Write those ideas down and keep that list alive by updating it and integrating a project or two into your working week. It’s not your to-do list, it’s your might-do list. No pressure.
5. Slow and steady wins the race
Whether personal or for business, you are probably aiming for a long-term target. To really get a sense of forward momentum, spend time each day on the big goals – even if it’s just thinking time. Dreams are realised by increments.
6. Big and small lists
Write two to-do lists (stay with me here). The first is the big stuff; it’s the few things you need to prioritise that are urgent or that will take the most time. The second is the fiddly tasks. If you feel overwhelmed by the big stuff, sweat the small stuff for a bit, then come back to it.
7. Use your time wisely
Everyone has their own productivity cycle. Is your focus level at a hundred percent in the morning but down to fifty after lunch? Then schedule your non-thinking tasks, like checking emails, for the afternoon.
8. Application integration
Integrate your to-do list with your calendar so that everything is co-ordinated. You might want to use an app to help build those connections.
9. Seriously, use your time wisely
Add padding on the time it will take to do a task. It usually takes longer than you think, and who said you had to be sprinting through the day anyway? Are you some kind of robot? If you finish something a little earlier than expected, take a moment. Breathe. Push back on pressure to pack your schedule, or the result will be sloppy work, stress and frustration.
10. Reward yourself
Let the machines take care of it
What? After all that, your to-do list is still unmanageable? Time for drastic measures. Either you need more people to support your business growth, or, you could do with some strategic automation. Get the little things out the way so you can focus on the important stuff – like planning the company barbecue. Kebabs or sausages… Go on – why not both?