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To-Do Lists: More Than What Meets the Eye

  • Post category:Soft Skills
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Does the amount of work on your plate overwhelm you? Do you find yourself missing deadlines? Do you sometimes just forget to do something important? If you answered yes to any of the above, then you’re exhibiting symptoms of not keeping a proper to-do list. A to-do list is a prioritized list of all the stuff you need to take care of. They list everything that you need to do. The most important stuff is typically at the top and less important stuff usually resides towards the bottom.

Keeping a to-do list helps you keep track of all the stuff that you need to do so that you don’t forget anything important. To-do lists are also awesome since they require you to prioritize your tasks.

To-do lists are critical if you want to beat work overload. When you don’t use them, you’ll come across as unfocused and unreliable to your peers.

On the contrary, when you do use a to-do list correctly, you’ll be far better organized, and you’ll be much more reliable.  You’ll also experience less stress since you can rest assured that you haven’t forgotten anything important. Furthermore, if you prioritize intelligently, you’ll focus your time and effort on high-value activities, which means that you’re more productive and provide more value to your team.

Maintaining a properly structured and well-thought-out list sounds simple enough. However, it can be surprising how many people fail to use them all together, let alone use them efficiently.

Preparing a To-Do List

Step 1

Write down all of the tasks that you need to complete. If you’re dealing with larger tasks, consider breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Note: You may find it helpful to create a number of lists for each part of your life – work, school, personal, etc. Creating and using to-do lists isn’t an exact science, so keep trying different systems and methods until you find one the one that works best for you!

Step 2

Run through all of your tasks and assign priorities. I’m a fan of a four-tier system ranging from 1 (most important) to 4 (least important).

Using Your To-Do List

Using your to-do list is pretty straightforward. You start off by completing all of your top priority items, then your level two items, then your level three items, and lastly your level four tasks. Make sure to check off each task as you complete it. There are few things more satisfying than seeing a long to-do list with all of the action items checked off!

What you include on your to-do list and how you use it will vary depending on your situation. For instance, if you’re in a sales-type role, a good way to motivate yourself is to keep your list relatively short and aim to complete it each and every day.

However, if you’re in an operational role, or if tasks are large or dependent on a lot of other people, then it may be better to focus on a longer-term list, and slowly chip away at it day by day.

Many people find it helpful to set aside 10 minutes, or so, at the end of each day to plan out their to-do list for the following day.

Software-based Options

A paper list is a great way to get started. However, there are a lot of software-based approaches that can be more efficient and have a small learning curve. These software-based options remind you of your tasks, can sync with your phone or email, and you can share your lists with your team if you’re collaborating on a project. If you’re interested in trying out a software-based option, I strongly encourage Todoist. It’s clean and simple, yet also powerful if you want it to be. Here’s a look at some of Todoist’s features if you’re so inclined. One of the biggest advantages go using a software-based to-do list is that it’s easy to update. Instead of scratching off tasks and rewriting the list every day, you can move your tasks around with ease.

Andrew Roche

Andrew Roche is a Digital Consultant at Shift Digital. He is also pursuing an MBA in Marketing & Finance through the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University

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