How to write a to do list that gets done
I live by my lists. I’ve got lists in my notebook, on my tablet, in my handbag, on my pinboard. Not only do I like writing lists, but I like ticking things off lists. At the end of a busy day it’s a good feeling to see what I’ve accomplished, right there in black and white.
1. Right tasks down as soon as you think of them
I know that my list habit comes at the expense of flexing my memory muscles. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t sink in.
2. Know the difference between urgent and important
Lists make our lives about urgent activities rather than important ones. After all, ploughing through a list might make you feel like you are achieving something, but what is the nature of those achievements?
3. Take time for friends and family
You’re having a conversation with a good friend when the phone rings. Now, this call may be more or less important than the conversation with the friend. But when a phone rings it feels urgent, so you answer it. And what of the important, but non-urgent conversation you were in the middle of when the phone interrupted you? It gets put on hold.
4. Prioritise important, non-urgent activities
Stephen R Covey, author of The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster, £14.99), points out that when we shift our focus to important but non-urgent activities, such as planning, taking exercise or building relationships (like that interrupted conversation), the number of important, urgent things gets smaller.
5. …So you can have free time
This frees up even more time to invest in important, non-urgent activities, instead of unimportant, urgent things: the phone call you feel compelled to take, or email you must send now.
6. Streamline your to do list
Think of all the non-important, urgent stuff that dominates your time and find ways to reduce it.
7. Figure out what’s truly important
Make a list of the important but non-urgent things that would enrich your life. The result? A way to reduce your important, urgent to-do list. And now you control the list, not the other way around.
As CEO of That People Thing and a writer on leadership, Healthy’s life coach Blaire Palmer empowers leaders to drive their companies forward (That People Thing).