Is your to-do list a mile long? Do you look at the same long list of tasks every day and wonder where to start? If so, how do you choose which tasks you will work on today? Writing down your to-dos or entering them into your task list is only the first step to getting things done. You also need to assign each task to a date when you plan to complete it. The following tips with help you to turn your "wish list" into an effective task list to help you more effectively and efficiently plan your day:
- Record Your Tasks – If you are keeping track of your to-dos in your head, start recording them today. If you are recording them, is your to-do list spread across multiple notebooks, post-it notes, or napkins? The first step to successful task management is to record your tasks in a single location.
- Assign a Date – This is where many people fall short. If your task list is a long list of everything that you need to do, it is more like a wish list. If you want to actually complete your tasks, you need to assign each task to a date when you plan to complete it. When you are assigning tasks to dates, make sure to reference your calendar and choose a day that makes sense. For example, if you are going to be out of the office next Tuesday, do not assign a large group of tasks to that day.
- Be Realistic – Be realistic about what you will be able to accomplish in a single day. Limit the number of tasks assigned to a given day to ten. It is demoralizing to never be able to finish what you have planned for the day. If you give yourself ten tasks to do each day and you never complete more than seven, then adjust the number of tasks you assign daily. If you complete everything on your list for today, you can always work ahead!
- Stick to It – Fight the urge to deviate from your list. You have assigned the tasks to today for a reason. Now stick to it and make every effort to complete them on time. If something unexpected does arise, then reassign your unfinished tasks to the next logical day. A word of caution to those of you using electronic task lists: beware of the automatic roll-over feature. For most electronic task lists, any tasks from today that are left undone will automatically rollover to tomorrow. Although this feature can come in handy, it can also be dangerous. If your task list gets too long, the tasks are no longer meaningful. At the end of the day, consciously reassign any unfinished tasks to the next logical day.
- Check Often – Review your to-dos first thing in the morning to plan your day. At the end of the day, reassign any tasks that did not get completed, and take a look at tomorrow's list to prepare for the coming day.
Remember, it takes about 30 days of daily repetition to form a new habit. Stick with it. Schedule time in your calendar to manage your task list. Before you know it, it will become a habit and your productivity will soar.