The Perfect To-Do List

Is there such a thing?  I’m sure that, if there is, it’s a Revolutionary Assistant that’s come up with it.  We Revolutionary Assistants rely on our to-do lists, and we’ve each got our own way of creating one that motivates us and keeps us on track.  But we went out to the Internet, anyway, to see what other people were doing – just in case we hadn’t thought of everything.

Turns out, there are all kinds of ideas out there.  Let’s take a look at some suggestions and ideas you might not currently be using.  Some of them contradict each other but, hey, we’re not all alike!

to do listWrite your list the night before – Coming off of your eight (ten, twelve?) hour work day, you know what you finished, what you left behind to do tomorrow and what kind of things are going to come up.

Do the hardest thing first – While you’re fresh, jump into the hardest task on your list and get it out of the way.  You’re already successful before you hit item number two!

Limit (or go all out with) the number of items on your list – Some successful to-do list users claim that having any more than three items on your list just sets you up for failure.  If you’re like me, you put EVERYTHING on your list, because crossing stuff off motivates me to do more.  What’s your magic number of items?  Take a moment to figure out how many line items work for you.

Assign time estimates – How long do you think it’ll take you to do each item?  Take a moment to jot it down so you can see if you have enough time in your day to address them all.

Batch similar tasks together – If you’re spending a certain amount of time answering correspondence and then need to look at emails…well, those are actually similar tasks.  They require the same kind of energy, and it could be easier to plan to go right from one to another.  Similarly, creating a Powerpoint presentation and reviewing data for a report require different parts of the brain.  Don’t pair those up, they won’t go well together.

Divide the list into sections – You may want to have three sections to your list: a list of meetings you have to attend, what needs to be accomplished in those meetings, and items to be done that don’t have anything to do with those meetings.

Put your list out there for people to see – This is something I do with some success.  I make my little white board public so that my co-workers can make their comments.  I hear, “Wow, you’re almost done!” or “Hey, you’ve got a lot left to do!”  I work hard on my list to hear more of the former and less of the latter comments!

Evaluate your items…especially what’s left at the end of the night – I’ve had a couple of things on my list that I think, “That’s been there for weeks and not done, do I really need to do it?”  You might want to eliminate it all together.  Stop for a moment to think about how urgent each of the items on your list are.  Will a bad situation get worse if you don’t address it right away?  Is it important for that item to get done so that other parts of a project can move forward?

Understand the difference between a task, a project, and a goal on your list – I have a “list of lofty goals” I create every year on January 2.  These are items I’d love to do but may or may not get to.  Another is a list of projects I need to complete.  Finally, a list of tasks.  Those tasks lead into completed projects, and those projects might even be portions of my lofty goals.  It’s helpful because I can see all the pieces that need to be done, but I don’t get overwhelmed by looking at projects and goals as a whole.

In the end, the perfect to-do list is the one that motivates you to get things done.  Your list might have some of the features above, and you may have tried others only to find that they didn’t really work for you.  These are only suggestions by people who’ve found they work.   Everyone’s job and list should be different, and the only perfect list is the one that works for you.


Next post:  Wednesday, November 29

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