HR & Personal Development

To do or not to do

Many Leaders use to do lists for prioritizing their work tasks and limited time. But these lists are a waste of time, if they aren't made and applied the right way. In the following you find 11 guidelines on how to make an efficient to do list.

A to do list is an outline of the tasks you have to complete.

11 guidelines for a more productive to-do-list

  1. Choose a system that works for you
    There are many systems and programs to choose from; software, online systems or the good old pen and paper method. The most important thing is that it works for you.

  2. It must be neat and pleasant to use
    The more the system appeals to you, functionally as well as visually, the higher the possibility that you'll actually use it.

  3. Always have it at hand
    You should always have your to do list within arms-length, whether you are in a meeting, in a car, on a bus or at home. Make sure you catch everything you need to do and write it down immediately. The more you carry around in your head, the slower and less prone for action you'll become all the while you lose your broad overview. You could use tools such as Evernote, Wunderlist or Trello to keep track of your tasks. All three are all free and synchronizes between computer, smartphone and tablet, so you always have access to your to do list.

  4. Start by emptying your brain
    Start by writing down all of the assignments you can think of. At this stage it is of no importance if it is organized or “neat”. If you have other to do lists, make sure to include them on your list as well.

  5. Divide and organize
    When everything is gathered in one place, you must organize your assignments in categories. Choose categories that makes sense in relation to your work routines. For example work and private, projects, important tasks etc.

  6. An item must be a physical act
    As soon as the item on your list is not a physical act, you should be on the look-out. For example “Consider the quality of the offer” does not belong on a list. It ought to say “print offer” or “ask X on their opinion”.

  7. An item should never be an object
    This is where most people fail. Projects have their own separate project plans. “Plan reception” shouldn't not be an item on your list. It is a project and could very well be the overall title of your containing items such as “call conference center”, “order food” or “print program”.

  8. The sequence must be verb, noun, object

    • Wrong: Printing paper
      Correct: Get printing paper from basement

    • Wrong: Remember report!
      Correct: Print report from X computer.

    It may seem like banalities, but when you become practiced, the transparency of your items will make you capable of acting much faster on the various assignments.

  9. Keep it updated and current
    Clean up your list. All too often you'll see people with to do lists where half of the assignments looks like a mixture of a naïve wish list and a handwritten calendar. Tasks on a to do list are things that can be dealt with immediately – the list is not a pseudo calendar.

  10. Set aside time every week for handling unsolved tasks
    Tasks with low priority tend to move further and further down the list, as they very well should. This could mean, however, that you end up with a long list of low-priority task that'll never get done. This is why you must plan and make time every week to deal with unsolvable tasks.

  11. Be flexible and willing to change your plan
    Your list should never be locked. As your projects change, your to do list should do the same.