Being an introvert, I have always been more focused on setting and accomplishing tasks vs. scheduling my time. I feel when I write down a list of things I must get done, somehow I find a way to get them completed and crossed off. Recently I read the book To Do List Formula – A Stress Free Guide to Creating To-Do Lists That Work! by Damon Zahariades.
Damon’s book was a short read and jam packed with tips and strategies for creating to do lists. He gives you several approaches that you can try. From reading it, you can tell Damon has a zeal for making to do lists! In fact, he advocates planning your week on Sunday evenings, making detailed lists with a reason for doing it and adding context for each tasks, like which project it is in and where the task needs to be completed, and suggests spending 45 minutes conducting an 11 step process for ‘weekly reviews’.
Personally, for me, I prefer not to make planning my week a part time job. I’m a little more simplified in my approach and I rely on my project plans and monthly goals in my Ignited Life Planner to help carve out the tasks needed for the week and day. (I probably spend no more than 15 – 20 minutes on Sundays planning my entire week.)
However, Damon did offer some fantastic tips on ways to create an effective task list – one that is achievable and helps give you a sense of accomplishment and pride. Surprisingly, I was already doing most of Damon’s suggestions, but wanted to point them out, as I feel these tips could be helpful.
Five Tips To Make Your Task List More Effective
1.Set An Objective For Each Day
For me, I like to have an main goal for the day and is usually revolves around what I feel MUST be done that day, for me to feel productive. I write this down each day in the “Today’s Focus” section of my Ignited Life Planner. This will help you prioritize your task list so you know which tasks need to be done first.
2. Write Your Tasks with Action Words and Be Specific
Damon suggests using the correct language in creating your task lists, which will help to minimize your “decision fatigue”. Every decision we make causes our brains to get a little more drained throughout the day, to the point where we begin to develop “decision avoidance”. When we are in a “decision avoidance” state, we tend to turn to social media or other menial tasks, instead of focusing on the important and urgent tasks you need to complete.
So start each task with a verb – so you know exactly what you need to do. And for larger projects, break them down into smaller, bite size action tasks. (The Ignited Life Planner helps you do this with the project plans and monthly and weekly goal lists.) Tasks listed in the weekly calendar for each day should be very specific and start with an action word. Don’t write “Term Paper” as a task, but instead write “Edit and print final term paper”
3. Make Sure All Tasks Have A Deadline
I agree with Damon that this is important. Setting deadlines creates a subliminal sense of urgency to complete it. Otherwise it’s too easy to procrastinate forever if there is no deadline.
4.Use Colors To Prioritize Your Tasks
Remember the Eisenhower Box? Make sure you prioritize your tasks by highlighting or coloring the ones that must be completed that day. Focus on those tasks that are important and urgent first. Similar to Franklin Covey’s system of “A”, “B” and “C” tasks, using different colors will draw your eye immediately to what you need to focus on now.
5. Limit the Number of Tasks Due to 7 Per Day
This was Damon’s suggestion and to be completely honest, I’m not as stringent to the max number of tasks I create. Some days I may have 10 tasks (2 or 3 “big time consuming tasks” and 5 or 6 smaller tasks that I could complete quickly.) For me, my limit is the space contained in my Ignited Life Planner, (which is up to 12 tasks). But I do agree, the more tasks you have on your plate, the less likely you are to complete all of them.
If you feel you are struggling to be productive, I highly recommend reading Damon’s book, To Do List Formula – A Stress Free Guide to Creating To-Do Lists That Work! as a quick read for all the different task management strategies….and investing in an Ignited Life Planner!