Making an effective to-do list can be like drawing a picture — some days you produce a great work of art and other days you make something only suitable for the trash. Obviously, the goal is to produce 365 pieces of great art a year.
Last year, in the Unclutterer Forums, 14 members had a wonderful discussion about how they make realistic to-do lists. Here are some of their helpful suggestions:
toberead: I keep a couple of different To Do lists. One is for tasks that I must do today. Another one is for tasks that I have to do this week (or this month, etc.) That way, I’m reminded of things that I need to do sometime soon, but they don’t clutter up my daily To Do list.
Amber: … Set [a] timer for 10 minutes and in that time, write down (or type) all of the things you need to do that day … [Then,] go through your list and rank items according to importance, starting with the most vitally important. Things that absolutely MUST get done that day get a ranking of “1” so go through your list and rank those first … Now rank the least vitally important items – things that could be postponed for weeks if need be. Rank those as “5”s … Now rank everything else according to how they rate in importance between “1” (must be done today) and “5” (can wait several weeks if need be) … Once everything is ranked, you have your to-do list for the day. Start with the “1”s and work your way through to the “5”s.
CaySwann: I like to use http://todoist.com for brainstorming lists, color-coding them, and setting tickler reminders for occasional repeating tasks. I use a gadget on my iGoogle page to show me my Todoist on my home page. It makes changing a deadline easy, and sorting and color-coding simple.
Lilliane P: I read years ago to put only the six most important items for the day on your daily list. This is manageable (esp. if large items have been broken down into manageable actions). Then, keep a running list of things to do that are waiting in the wings, so to speak.
Deb Lee: … pick the TOP ONE or TWO things that MUST to be done on THAT DAY.
- How long will it take you to accomplish each task?
- Are there multiple steps to completing each task? How long will it take to do each step?
Priorities are typically driven by:
- Time (e.g., pick up the kids by noon)
- Money (e.g., deposit $$ to pay a bill <-- this one's time & money; get $$ that's owed to you)
- Sentiment (e.g., spend quality time with your favorite person)
- Combination of two or more of the above
Spend a few minutes figuring out if the task is driven by a particular constraint and that will help you to decide which one to tackle first.
Check out more to-do list ideas in the Forums, and join in the conversation there or in the comments to this post. I’m eager to read how everyone manages his list.