The average person’s short-term memory can only hold seven pieces of information for about 30 seconds. It’s safe to say that most of us have more than seven tasks we need to track. To help solve this problem, the common “to-do lists” of projects, personal goals or “honey-do’s” were invented. Unfortunately, these lists often become a litany of regrets and constant reminders of the things we should have done or haven’t accomplished.
There are ways to turn a daunting to-do list into a useful tool that helps you stay on track. Try these simple tips yourself, or implement them organization-wide, to turn to-do lists into to-done lists.
- Organize the lists of projects. Do you have lists stashed everywhere—on your computer at home, your work laptop, posted to the fridge, scribbled on a napkin in your car, etc.? The first step is to clean house and make one master list. Then, break the master list into categories, such as: work, home, personal, family.
Hint: To easily identify these categories and their affiliated projects, create a color coding system that will visually separate them. Use Post-it® organizer packs or pocket-assistant flag book with colored flags for note-taking journals or hand-written calendars. For instance, work-related projects may be flagged the color green and personal projects may be colored orange.
- Prioritize the projects. Not all projects are created equal. Don’t feel like you have to tackle everything at once. A simple rating system can assist in identifying the most critical tasks.
Hint: At work, it can be challenging to prioritize tasks when everything appears to be urgent. Ask department heads to guide the prioritization by communicating the key strategic initiatives and their deadlines on magnets handed out to all co-workers – then align tasks to follow suit.
- Take baby steps. Segment the largest projects into a series of much smaller projects or phases. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with either a long-term project or one that is highly complex; but in smaller, bite-sized pieces, it is much more manageable.
Hint: Large projects often have multiple team members involved. Keep them on task and on deadline with fun hand clappers that thank them for giving you a hand on the project!
- Set achievable goals. More often than not, we are unrealistic with our lists, thinking we can do more in one day than we really can. To avoid feeling disgruntled with not completing a list, set achievable goals that allow for “small wins” that can be celebrated.
Hint: Use small wins as morale boosters in the workplace. Express your thanks to involved team members after a series of tasks have been completed successfully with imprinted multi-task openers and a note that says “Your efforts have helped us get here—thank you!”
- Reevaluate, reprioritize, regroup. Lists are organic and not written in stone (typically). They are ever-changing and evolving and reflect our lives. Don’t become weighted down if a task needs to be shifted, reprioritized or even removed from your list.
Hint: Review lists and their prioritization on a daily basis. Determine the most critical deadlines for that day and shift tasks as appropriate to accomplish the most pressing.
Lists can be your new best friend, helping you or your organization increase productivity. Simply follow these simple tips and turn your to-dos into to-dones.
"Why Use a To-Do List?" Toodledo. Toodledo. Web. 01 Apr. 2012.