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Is your to-do list in order?

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

A well-crafted task list allows you to focus your full attention on the most important matters without worrying that something will "fall through the cracks."

See how well your list measures up as an organizational tool by answering these questions:

Is everything on your list? Recording a task on paper (or in the computer) eliminates the need to hold that thought in your mind, but the act of writing (or typing) also reinforces it in your memory.

Also, listing all your "must-do's" paints a realistic picture of your time demands. Without that complete view, you or your boss will be tempted to pile on an unreasonable load.

Is every item a task? Don't lump all the project components together. You may delay beginning an assignment because you can't free enough time to do it all, but you can chip away at it step by step.

Break down "Prepare for July board meeting" into individual jobs, such as "Reserve conference room."

Do you subdivide the categories? Whether you prioritize with letters (A, B, C) or terms ("must do," "should do" and "when time allows") further classify the tasks by the order in which you will complete them. (A1, A2, A3 ... ).

At a minimum, order them by morning and afternoon assignments, based on the attention they require and your personal productivity peak.

Doing that when you update your list each day eliminates the need to ever ask yourself, "What's next?"

Whose priorities does the list reflect? Does the relative importance of tasks reflect the goals and values of your organization, department, boss and yourself? Don't relegate tasks related to your career advancement to the "someday" category. Pick a day each week or month to place a personal career-enhancing assignment as a high priority.

Do you update your list? Don't just add tasks. Determine their impact on the items awaiting action (maybe another "A" becomes a "B"), and reassess whether last week's "should do" is now an "urgent."

Do you set a daily limit? You can't knock everything off the list today, so set a realistic target for what you can achieve based on your estimates of how long each task will require. Stop when your tally reaches six or seven hours, to allow for interruptions and other time-stealers.

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