How to Create an Effective To-Do List

Want to know how to create an effective to-do list?

We have all done to-do lists.

We love to hate ‘em and we hate to admit we love ‘em.

Somehow there never seems to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things that are on your to-do list.

Whatever your relationship with your to-do list

Chances are you have found your list overwhelming more than once. 

You have likely cursed its length or done a happy dance when you managed to cross off every last item.

If messing with or avoiding your to-to list is keeping you from crossing items off that list.

Here is the system that has worked for me.

It can work for you too.

Choose your tool
Choose your tool

Do you spend more time looking for tips and tools and techniques for doing a thing, then you are spending time doing the actual thing?

Now let’s stop that, shall we?

If you are the old fashioned person then you will need nothing more than paper and a pen. 

Whether you choose a notebook to carry around every day…

a series of post-its you stick to the walls for big-picture visual clarity…

a stack of indexcards so that you can only see one item at a time…

Or any other specific system…

Select a tool that fits with the way you work best.

If you are technology-minded there are more apps, add-ons and applications on Google Play and Apple. 

Set a timer and give yourself no more than thirty minutes to comb through those apps and choose a tool that feels right for you.

A List Is Not Enough
To-do list

Making a “things to-do list” is not enough.

You need to rank them.

You have to know which tasks are more important so you can focus on them.

Then you have to allocate resources to those items, measure your progress, and reward yourself for your successes.

Rank Your Tasks
Rank Your Task

I list all my to-do items in a spreadsheet or you can do them on paper as I used to do.

You also can put them in your tablet or PDA, write them on your calendar, or input them to a time management software.

The first step is to list all you have to do.

Then assign a rank to them so you can focus on the important items.

I use a 1, 2, 3 ranking.

My 1st list are the things I have to get done today before I leave.

My 2nd list are things I need to get done but not necessarily today.

My 3rd list are the things I need to find time to do soon.

I found out pretty quickly that things on my 3rd list just never got done.

And most of the 2nd list didn’t ever get done either.

When I was a Lab Manager several years ago I found myself getting more and more frustrated with my 1st list.

Not only was I not getting through it every day…

Like I did before…

But I noticed my 1st list kept growing.

That’s when I figured out what I had to do to make my to-do list work for me.

That is when I developed a system that did work.

Time Management is needed
Time Management is needed

It wasn’t enough to know what was important but what made the 1st list.

I also needed to know how long things would take and how much time I had to devote to them.

I added a column to my to-do list that showed how long each task should take and another column that showed the total time taken.

Then I kept track of my tasks.

As I did each task I wrote down what I did and the start and end times.

I kept track for an entire day.

Then I repeated it a couple weeks later on a different day.

The best thing is it gave me some insight.

As the Lab Manager much of my day was taken up by interruptions.

I was dealing with events that happened, crises that came up, or problems that had to be solved.

On average these interruptions consumed about 2 to 3 hours a day.

Since I typically work an eight-hour day…

I only had 4 to 5 hours a day for the things that were on my to-do list.

Before I left the Lab office, I would update my to-do list.

I would delete the things that I had completed, delegated, or downgraded.

Then I would add the new things that had come up, rearrange the priorities to get the most important tasks on top, and assign estimated time to each.

Then I’d go down the list to the 3-hour mark and draw a line.

That became my target for the next day.

Learn to Reward Yourself
Learn to Reward Yourself

Most of the time that line fell somewhere on my 1st list.

It was rarely anywhere near the bottom.

But that was my goal…

If I hit or passed that line, then I went home feeling like it had been a productive and successful day.

Instead of beating myself up over the things I hadn’t been able to get to…

I took note on my success at having met or beaten my goal.

On the next day, I had to start all over again and reach for a new goal…

But I did it from the perspective of building on previous success.

Rather than from the frustration of constantly having more to do that I had time to accomplish it.

You Need a System To Be Successful
You Need a System To Be Successful

You have to develop a system to manage your time so you can get more done in the time you have.

If your target line on your to-do list is always near the top.

Then your boss is going to start looking for someone else who can work a little farther down the list every day.

Manage This Issue

List the tasks you have to do.

Prioritize those that are important and not just urgent.

Have a plan for what to accomplish each day.

Work toward that plan.

Reward yourself when you meet or beat your goal.

Here is a template I use to help you get started on your to-do list
To Do List

My next blog will be on Tips to Create To-Do Lists

Read my latest blog on 55 Useful Time Management Quotes for 2016


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About Maria Barina

Maria Barina is a mother and grandmother who worked for the NYC Board of Education as Laboratory Specialist Bio/GS for 26yrs till the age of 56. Her husband, after 37 of marriage, passed away from Lung Cancer. She came to myEmpirePRO to seek guidance on how to get freedom that an online business can provide. Freedom to her is being able to do what she wants, when she wants to and to show others they can do the same to. Since she done that she is able to do this by working anywhere she goes and became a mobile-prenuer

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