To-do List Tips for Better Time Management
If you’re creating & managing your to-do list in a constructive way it will improve your time management skills and make you a more productive person. To-do lists will keep you organized, give you direction and should make you feel less scrambled when you have a lot going on. Without a to-do list you’re more likely to waste your time or lack focus. An effective to-do list isn’t just randomly listing the things you need to get done. It goes beyond that.
First, you should establish if you need more than one to-do list. For example, some people find it helpful to have separate lists for things they need to do daily and things they need to do as time allows. Keeping those tasks separate will help you stay focused on the tasks that are more immediate or have closer deadlines. For example if today is Saturday but you already know you have to do something on Wednesday, it’s ok to go ahead and create a Wednesday to-do list. This will keep you focused on your Saturday items but will also ensure that your Wednesday task doesn’t fall through the cracks. A long weekly or monthly list can quickly become overwhelming and overwhelming equals distracting.
To-do lists can be helpful for remembering professional and personal tasks. Life is busy and full of interruptions and it’s easy to let important things slip through the cracks if they aren’t written down. Knowing how to prioritize the tasks on your to-do list is essential to a successful time management plan. When prioritizing, look at your list as whole, what makes most sense. For example, if possible run all of your errands or perform all of your out of office tasks, or chores at once. Don't bounce back and forth. This will ensure you’re making the most of your time. You also want to focus on your most important tasks first.
Deciding what tasks are more important can be difficult if everything seems like a priority. Using tools like the Covey time management matrix can help me when you feel like everything needs to be completed as soon as possible. The matrix uses a simple model that helps you categorize your to-dos based on urgency and importance. You simply start by identifying your immediate tasks then identify and list your recurring tasks. Daily, weekly, and monthly. It’s important to list them all but make them brief, clear statements–don’t overthink it. Once you’ve identified your to-dos, put a deadline and estimated time to complete next to each. This will not only help you prioritize but help keep you from procrastinating as well. Once your list is organized by deadline, decide which tasks are most urgent/most important. For example, if I have a form that needs to be dropped off at the post office the same day that a big client project is due, I am going to mark the client project as more urgent.
Properly prioritizing will also help you stay focused and make the most of your time. If your day changes and something interrupts your original plans remember that your list isn’t set in stone. It’s ok to re-prioritize and reorganize. Using the time management matrix will help you easily transition when something new comes up. It’s also important not to overwhelm yourself when creating your to-do list and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete your tasks. However long you think it will take–assume it will take an additional hour. Always include time for normal day interruptions & breaks as well.
There are several free ways to automate and make it easy to manage your to-dos and time. It’s important to find your own productivity rhythm. What works for one, won’t work for everyone Some popular, free to-do list or task management tools are Google Keep, Evernote, and Microsoft To-do. For the iPhone & Mac users, Apple Notes can easily be turned into a checklist. Those are just a few of the many options available. Maybe you're one of those people that loves a good paper list? I don’t recommend that. Paper lists can easily get lost or damaged and there’s no back up. Would you remember everything you needed to do if this were to happen? I wouldn't! When using an online list or phone app you can access your list from another device if something were to happen to your phone or computer. If you’re into living life on the edge, paper lists are definitely better than no lists!If you can remember and manage to keep up with all your tasks without using a list or documenting them in some way shape or form, then kudos to you. You’re a rare breed. Effective to-do lists are critical to staying focused, improving time management and making sure nothing gets missed!