If you’re like me, your to-do list multiplies while you sleep. The more things you check off, the more things get added on. It’s a vicious cycle!
I’m a prolific list maker. I love organizing and prioritizing my tasks and projects. I love checking things off when they are completed. The problem I run into, though, is that I try to squeeze too much into the hours available each day. Some days I’m successful and it’s a fantastic feeling. But on the days I’m not, it can be a train wreck!
Interruptions, office crises, tasks taking longer than expected, personal health issues, and other family matters – all of these situations can derail your day if you don’t plan for them.
Lately, I’ve taken a new approach to my to-do list, thanks to productivity expert Laura Stack. Laura recommends creating one list with three views using Microsoft Outlook. However, you can do this with almost any task or project management tool. The one list includes all your to-do list items – everything you can possibly think of. The three views are your memory list (undated items, long-term planning), master list (dated items, active projects), and HIT list (high impact tasks, a limited, daily to-do list). You can learn more about this system here.
I’ve also learned that I need to identify my primary focus for the month, week, and day so I make better choices about how I tackle my daily HIT list. To do this, I pick three things I want to accomplish each month. These are bigger project-type items. Then each week, I pick three things I need to focus on to work toward accomplishing the monthly goals. Finally, when I plan for the week, I pick three things I need to focus on each day. I map this out on my office whiteboard wall so it stays visible throughout the week.
There is a catch to the three daily things I choose to focus on: The first item is the one thing I need to do each day to accomplish the things I set out to accomplish for the week. The second item every single day is email processing. After keeping a time log and working with a productivity coach, I realized that I wasn’t allowing enough time to handle email. This is why my inbox never reached or maintained zero. Email is how business gets done today. It’s a major part of our day and how we receive requests for tasks and projects we need to work on. So it needs to be given the proper amount of time each day in order for it to be maintainable. This single shift in my approach to my daily to-do list made a tremendous difference in how I managed my time.
The third thing on my daily focus list is something else I’d really like to get done if I have an ideal day. If it doesn’t get finished, it’s fine. I build in some flexibility throughout the rest of the week so I can reprioritize it. This is a big benefit of only focusing on three things each day.
Another benefit of this approach is that I don’t get overwhelmed as easily. It’s manageable. It’s flexible enough to bend and sway without breaking when unexpected things pop up. And since I started applying this approach, I’m getting more done and not feeling nearly as stressed in the process. Now, my to-do list is still as long as ever. But I’m making better choices about how I spend my time and energy throughout the day.
This week, our feature article highlights 10 Reasons Tasks Never Move off Your To-Do List (And How to Fix It). We’re also sharing some fantastic tips and strategies to help you manage your time more wisely on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.
Time management is really about self-management and learning what works for you, what doesn’t work for you, and developing better habits and systems to gain control of your time, to-do lists, and sanity. And I can tell you from personal experience…finding the right combination is a wonderful feeling!
Supporting your administrative success,
P.S. If you need more help on managing your to-do list, check out our Training On Demand webinar: Find Time To Do It! Tightening Up Your Time Management Habits to Ensure Maximum Productivity. Or get our full six-part productivity series here.