Have you tried a to-do list and it hasn’t worked? Do you occasionally forget a task? Do you spend too much time on low-priority tasks, versus important tasks? Have you been surprised by an approaching deadline? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may need to create, use, or improve a daily to-do list. Whether you use a legal pad, Outlook, or an app, it’s not important; what is important is to use a to-do list daily. Because a to-do list can be a powerful tool that reduces stress and uses time more efficiently.

How To Create A Daily To-do List

• List your daily activities.
• Grade activities by importance from “A—can’t wait,” to “F—not sure if it requires my attention.” Demote A’s and re-prioritize if there are too many.
• Plan more than you think you can accomplish. Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Uncompleted low-priority tasks may be moved to the next day.
• Divide large tasks into more manageable components.
• Use the gumption factor—schedule the least attractive and most important task first.
• Consider chronos time (the amount of time needed to complete the activity) and kairos time (the best time to schedule the activity).
• Plan start and stop times for each activity.
• Delegate appropriate activities.

Tips For Better Prioritization

Recurring activities may be scheduled at consistent daily and/or weekly times. Because, a consistent routine will reduce the time and energy spent scheduling.

Therefore, if you are part of a team, consistently scheduling routine activities informs everyone.

Make a plan every day. Some people enjoy arriving at work 10–15 minutes early to organize their work area, and to create a daily plan. Others prefer the end of the day. It does not matter. What matters is taking a few minutes to plan the day.

When Listing Daily Activities, Consider The Following

• Pre-scheduled routine activities
• Ongoing projects
• New projects
• Assignments
• Follow-ups
• Planning time

The objective is not to plan every activity; it is to schedule activities.

I’ve Tried All This Stuff and It Didn’t Work!

• K-I-S-S—Keep It Simple, stupid!
• List a few priorities, and don’t increase the list until you begin accomplishing those daily.
• Start a, “I’m keeping track of this” list for continuing projects.
• Remove items (or move to a tracking list) that do not progress.
• Make a weekly list and a separate daily into a list.
• Create a to-don’t list. Eliminate unimportant tasks, and delegate tasks better suited to others.
• Say no. Do not commit to unimportant tasks.

So, what if your supervisors keep giving you more than you can accomplish? Show them your workload, your to-do list, and politely ask, “Which tasks should take priority and which should I put off?”

In Conclusion

I’m interested in your experiences with to-do lists. So, do you currently use a to-do list, and why or why not? Do you use an app? What has worked for you?  What hasn’t worked for you? Do you think I’m full of crap? Let me know.

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash