Do you remember a time when you didn’t need a calendar or didn’t need make lists to remind you of what you needed to do, where you needed to be, and when? A time back to high school or even earlier when the demands of life were simpler and far fewer than they are when work, family and our own personal lives beg for attention.
Life is different now. We continually jump from task to task, e-mail to e-mail, Facebook post to tweet to phone call. As a result, it’s easy to lose sight of our priorities and responsibilities. We may forget to ask, “What needs to be done this morning? Today? This week? This month? This quarter?” Without lists, it’s just too easy for things to fall through the cracks.
Whether you create a “to-do” list on a post-it note, on your computer or laptop or mobile device, the action represents a safety valve to help you stay productive and earn the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing tasks in a timely manner.
If you are not a current list-maker, the best place to start is from the various sources of input we all encounter at work or at home. From the tasks on the strategic plan, priorities and projects assigned to us from the boss, requests for help from others to meetings, conferences and other appointments, it is important to record these for the day, week, month and sometimes the quarter.
Without lists, it’s just too easy for things to fall through the cracks.
The best to-do lists have several components in common. The first is a defined, achievable task with a set completion date. Second, is a plan or strategy for completing tasks when multiple people or steps are required. Third, consider the importance and urgency of the activity. Some tasks can be crossed off a to-do list in a matter of minutes, while others will remain on the list much longer. Review your list daily and make sure to set aside time for catching up with people and projects.
Once your list is complete, work it—or as they say, “Plan your work and work your plan.” Don’t stray from the list unless circumstances dictate that straying from the list makes better business sense than sticking to it. Turn off e-mail notifications and close the browser windows for Facebook and Twitter. Hold your calls when work needs to be done. These are needless distractions that take us away from the truly important tasks.
Of course, there are many kinds of lists—goals, dreams, professional ambitions, books to read, places to visit and so on. But the most basic—the daily to-do list—is the key to being organized and starting to make all of those other goals a reality.