I’ve written elsewhere about using a daily to-do list in conjunction with a calendar to make your schedule bow down before the awesomeness that is you, but does your to-do list get to “done”? Here are five simple ways to put some serious smack-down on daily tasks by pimping your to-do list.
1. Make sure you can do ’em. Having a hulking, obnoxious, hairy task sitting on your to-do list glaring at you is a recipe for procrastination. Chop that beast down to size. No single task on your list should take more than an hour. If it takes longer than that, you need to break it down into a series of smaller (less procrastination-inducing) tasks. Example: Take “Move to New York” and cut it down into, “Get boxes for packing,” “Schedule move with moving company,” “Work on ‘kiss-my-@$$’ attitude,” etc. “Move to New York,” is scary. “Get boxes for packing,” is cuddly and doable.
2. Schedule ’em. First thing each morning, sit down with your list and schedule each item on it, start to finish. Example: “10a to 10:30a – Schedule move with moving company.” Benefits: forces you to think realistically about how long the task will take and gives you a minute-by-minute here’s-what-I-should-be-doing-now game plan for the day. Giving each task a time anchors it concretely into the day’s schedule.
3. Rank ’em. First things first, right? Each morning as you schedule the days tasks ask yourself, “What is the one thing I MUST get done by the end of the day, even if I don’t do anything else?” Schedule that task accordingly. Note: just because it’s the most important doesn’t mean you have to do it first, but it does mean you should schedule it for a time when you know you won’t be distracted or interrupted. Of course, you’ll probably have several important things each day. Make sure those get special scheduling too. Any of the less important to-do items can be relegated to times when your schedule is a bit more iffy.
4. Trash ’em when needed. That to-do list ain’t the boss of you. Some times the best thing to do is trash a to-do list item in favor of a sudden opportunity. You shouldn’t feel guilty about nuking “do laundry” from your list if you suddenly get free tickets to that monster-truck rally or the grand opening of the All-You-Can-Eat Curry Castle. See your list as a suggested best schedule. That way you will be free to roll with the day’s punches and modify on the fly. Since you’ve already ranked the most important items, you’ll know which ones you can reasonably reschedule for another day if need be.
5. [hidepost]Keep ’em with you. Easy access is muy importante, no? Keep that list in your back pocket, on your iTouch, or in your Kate Spade. BUT, that’s also why you shouldn’t keep it on your computer. You want to be able to quickly check that list while driving 70 down the freeway. A computer-based to-do list can make that task an organ-donating experience, which, of course, shoots your schedule all to H-E-double hockey sticks.[/hidepost]
The long and short of it is use that to-do list; it will help. But make sure to use these five power-user tricks to get the most out of your daily to-dos.