I’m a big fan of to-do lists. In fact, that’s pretty much how I get most things done in my life and stay productive. I get an immense feeling of satisfaction from checking things off of my list. I am, in fact, also one of those people that will put down a task on the list even AFTER I have completed it so I get the satisfaction of checking it off!
For many people though, to-do lists simply do not work. Clients tell me all the time that even though they track everything they have to do, things simply don’t get done and they can’t get their lists to work for them.
I believe in this simple and highly effective tool and here are some keys to doing them the right way – something that I share with my 1-1 clients.
- Have ONE to-do list. It can be a notepad, a document on your computer, or on your phone. The key is to have ONE instance of it. It won’t do you any good to have some tasks written down on a post-it by your desk, others in your journal, still other tasks on your computer. Experiment with different places to find the one that works for you. I like to use a notepad because I like physically writing and checking things off (I am old school :)).
- Keep your to-do list in the same location. On your desk, kitchen counter, under a magnet on the refrigerator or in your hand (business) bag if you’re always on the go – whatever works for you. The important thing is to make sure it’s at a location that you frequent so you have easy access to it. It’s not going to do you any good if you never have it with you when you have to capture what needs to be done. So for example, if most of your day is spent on the road, a document on your desktop may not be ideal – but a notebook that you carry around with you may work. I keep my notepad on my desk in my home office where I start and end my every day.
- Capture your tasks in the most effective way. This is in fact the most important tip – the KEY to making to do lists as effective and awesome as they can be. It’s not enough to just list the tasks. You have to take it a step further. For each task, do these 2 things:
- Make sure you are clear on the bigger picture for each task. In other words, your desired goal. So for example, if grocery shopping is a task on your list, then your bigger goal could be to lead a healthier life by cooking fresh and delicious food. And that is why you need to go grocery shopping! Being mindful of the bigger picture will make you more motivated to do the mundane task of shopping for groceries.
- Each item should follow the SMART rule for goals. Now, there is a lot of information out there about SMART goals so I will keep it brief. In essence, you need to make sure that for each task on your list, you can answer the question that follows the criterion.
SPECIFIC – What exactly is to be done?
MEASURABLE – How will you know when it is done?
ATTAINABLE – Can you do it?
RELEVANT – Should you be doing it?
TIMELY – When exactly will you do it?
Once you practice doing your to-do list like this a few times, you’ll get the hang of it. The process will become seamless, fast and easy to do. So as I mentioned, I use a particular notepad. I keep it at my work desk where I have access to it at various points during the day. I am clear on my big 5 priorities (I reevaluate each month) and I make sure that each item on my task list not only falls under one of my big 5 but also follows the SMART methodology.
Doing these techniques for yourself will ensure that you will be productive (doing tasks that are meaningful and important) vs. just being busy (doing a bunch of random tasks). This system works 🙂
BUT, life isn’t just about productivity and I wouldn’t be doing my job as a life coach without taking the to-do list a bit further. Want to know how you can be productive AND happy with everything you are doing? You’ll have to wait for part 2 next week! 🙂
Pooja Dang is a Life Coach specializing in helping her clients to design and build the life they love with the help of customized coaching sessions and straight up, no nonsense advice. Are YOU ready to reinvent yourself? Let’s get started!