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10 tips for using your to-do list right

10 tips for using your to-do list right

European Business Listicle 09/2019

You have a to-do list and still have the feeling that you’re not making progress with your work? We present you with several tips to help you use your to-do list optimally and simply get more done.

1. Don’t keep one but three to-do lists

What? Keeping even more lists? What at first feels like an unnecessarily complicated process will give you much more of an overview. Instead of one giant list of confusing, disorganized to-dos, you can sort your items into three lists. Cody Wheeler suggests the following breakdown:

- Master list: Note all your to-dos here that need to be done within the foreseeable future. It doesn’t matter how small or unimportant the item seems at the time. Also make a note of the due date. 

- Weekly list: The things that need to be done in a certain week move to this list.

- Daily list: What absolutely has to be done during this day is noted on this list. Using this technique, you can start bringing order to the flood of things to do and concentrate on what needs to be done immediately.

2. Plan the next day the night before

Try to plan your daily list for the following day the night before. The advantage of doing so is that in your mind you’re finishing with the day and creating room for free time. At the same time, you can start the next day right away without first coordinating your work.

3. Try the 1-3-5 rule

The 1-3-5 rule refers to your daily list. There you can organize your items using the following rule: At the top is the most important item for the day (1). Three important items follow, and at the end are five smaller items that you might still have time for (see the next point). Give it a try to see if this rule works for you.

4. Give yourself a buffer

We usually estimate incorrectly how much time we have to spend on an item. For that reason, you should plan in more time than you think you’ll need when organizing your to-dos. That way you’ll be on the safe side and can actually take care of all your daily items. Another plus: You won’t have too many items on your list, and it stays more clearly organized.

5. Divide your work into partial steps

If you have to tackle a bigger project, think about what individual steps will lead you to your goal. Under no circumstances should you note the overarching items on your daily list, but instead the respective partial steps that you want to do. You’ll be closer to your goal and at the same time can check something off your list – a great feeling!

6. Formulate concrete to-dos

So that you still understand your tasks the next day, make the effort to formulate your items concretely. Instead of “email”, write “send email to Mr./Ms. Smith.” Ideally, every to-do will include a verb – that is also a psychological command to ourselves to do something. You know exactly what’s to be done and don’t have to waste any time thinking about it again.

7. Place your to-do list in a visible location

Writing a to-do list that using every trick in the book and then putting it in a drawer is obviously not a good idea. Your list(s) should have a place where you can always have them in mind. Directly in front of you on your desk or on the wall, digitally on your phone or as an app – the more often you glance at your list(s), the more you’ll be able to focus on your tasks.

8. Postpone your to-dos just one time

You won’t always correctly estimate what all you will finish. Sometimes, however, we postpone items not because we don’t have the time but because we prioritize other items. If you notice that you keep wanting to postpone an item, find out why. Is the item not important to you? Do you not know how to go about doing it? Either remove the item or think about how to continue with a small step. Just don’t keep postponing the item – that won’t help at all.

9. Choose the tool that’s the most fun for you

You don’t like making hand-written notes? Then keeping a to-do list on paper won’t be fun for you at all. Think about whether you want to organize your items on paper or digitally and look for the right tool that’s fun for you. Your motivation to deal with your to-do list will also be higher.

10. Celebrate your success

Check off finished items. That’s a great feeling every time! Look at your list at the end of the day: Have you done what you wanted to do? Then take a moment to appreciate this fact. That will give you the motivation to continue doing your to-dos with panache.

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