The most valuable weapon in the arsenal of every productive entrepreneur is the To-Do list. But not just anything you scribble down can help you organize your time and efforts better. In order to make the most of your to-do list, there are certain techniques you can use to expand it and fit it to your purpose.
If you are like most people, your to-do list is probably long, vague and full of chores and tasks you don’t feel too happy about having to do. You are probably not even using a dedicated to-do list app but write them on sticky notes, either real or virtual.
All of these things can make your list overwhelming, and sooner than later you will find it so confusing you’ll just completely neglect it. Here are a few tips on how to make your to-do list your ally, not your foe.
Reframe Your List
The main problem with most to-do lists is that they feel like a burden, rather than a helper. One glance at all the tasks waiting for you and you’ll instantly feel tired rather than motivated.
The main problem is that our lists are just a bunch of banal, stressful or boring tasks we have to write down or otherwise we’ll forget about them. And while they’re all a part of your job, reminding yourself of how much you hate doing them can quickly drain your motivation.
If this is what you see every time you look at the list, the solution is simple. Simply reframe your list to show the greater purpose of all those tasks. Say you have a certain goal to reach before you ask for a promotion or a raise. Write that down as an umbrella for all the tasks that will lead to it, so you remember that no matter how trivial they may seem, they still work towards a greater purpose. This way even the most boring tasks will seem important.
Make the List Public
This might sound scary or absurd, but making your list public does not mean having everyone see your list. It simply means sharing your goals with a colleague or a friend. If you tell someone about your plans or goals you are more likely to finish what you set because it makes you more accountable.
If having your friends and colleagues know about the list is not accountable enough, you should truly make your list public and open for your colleagues or managers to see. While it might seem scary at first, it will make you more effective. The reason is simple: as soon as you make the list public you’ll think twice about the tasks you wrote down, how soon you need to finish them and how long they’ve been in your queue.
You’ll want to make the list representable and for it to make sense to others, so you’ll work more on erasing duplicate tasks, finishing up tasks you’ve neglected, and just organizing the list better. A better-organized list means a significant productivity boost.
On the other hand, if you really feel uncomfortable sharing the list with others, especially if it contains personal notes and plans, just pretend you’re making the list for others. This will help you reap the benefits mentioned above without exposing yourself to scrutiny.
Make Your List Realistic
Finally, one of the most common reasons why our to-do lists often end up buried under a ton of other paperwork or in a folder somewhere on our desktop is that they often contain things we plan or wish to do, rather than things we actually plan on doing.
Keeping your list realistic is one of the keys to making it more effective. Instead of writing down things you hope to do, write down the list of things you are actually going to do within a certain time frame.
The best way to test whether the list is realistic is to put it away and try to remember as many tasks as you can. If you can’t remember what most items on your list are, you should probably go back to the drawing board.
This way you’ll get more job done during your workday but also take care of some tasks you’ve been putting away.