Home Forums Technology Making Realistic To-Do Lists

This topic contains 16 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  ninakk 7 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #158223


    I have trouble making realistic to do lists for the day ahead. There’s always more on the list than I can finish, and if I try writing down the time I think things will take, it inevitably takes longer.
    How do you deal with this?

    (I’m not sure if this is in the right forum!)

  • #160768


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    It seems like your expectations for a day isn’t meeting what you can manage. Yikes! First, you might try to eliminate as much as possible and make things easier that way. I mean, get rid of extra tasks that you are too busy to perform, cut down on answering email to specific times, etc. Then, I would stick to time blocking (I use google calendar). The beauty of time blocking isn’t that it is a strict structure, but that it allows you to keep a running record of your tasks and the amount of time it takes to complete them. I also change the time on the calendar to reflect the actual time that way I have a better record of what task take what time. The goal, as I see it, is to use time blocking as a tool to get you to visually see the amount of time tasks take you to complete so that you can maximize your productivity. Also, a bonus is that you can map out your days based on when you are at your most productive.

  • #160770


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    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. I can always move a “weekly” task to my “today” list if it becomes more urgent. (I use an online To Do list that allows me to see several lists at once, but you could do the same thing with any list.)

    I try to estimate the time it takes me to do certain things, but it’s not always possible. (I have to call my insurance company tomorrow, and it could take me 5 minutes, or it could take an hour.) If something takes longer, I can put off one of my less urgent tasks – or if I have extra time, I can do something from my weekly list.

    This is the To Do list web site I use: http://webtodo.wndmll.com/

  • #160783


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    1. Get a kitchen timer or use an online count-down timer such as http://www.online-stopwatch.com/.

    2. Set the timer for 10 minutes and in that time, write down (or type) all of the things you need to do that day. Don’t worry about the time it takes to do each task or justifying the task – this is just you brainstorming for 10 minutes about all the things you’d like to accomplish that day. Keep descriptions short and to the point: “Pick up dry-cleaning” or “Reserve hotel room in Chicago” or “pack away summer clothes.”

    3. When the 10 minutes on the timer is up, stop writing. Now set the timer for five minutes.

    4. 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. ONLY rank items as “1” if they truly MUST be done before you go to sleep that night. Remember, you only have 5 minutes to rank the WHOLE list, so don’t get hung up on decision-making. These aren’t life-or-death choices here, the important thing is to get it done.

    5. Now rank the least vitally important items – things that could be postponed for weeks if need be. Rank those as “5”s.

    6. 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). Your “2” ranking may be things that can be put off until tomorrow, but would be better done today. Your “4” ranking may be things with deadlines three or four days from now. You’ll find that you can quickly work out a ranking in your head that works just for you.

    7. 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.

    If you cannot get all the way through your “1”s for the day, look into learning new time management techniques or perhaps see about simplifying your daily obligations.

  • #160786

    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    Great suggestion Amber! A nice and systematic way to tackle the to-do list. I’m gonna try it for sure.

  • #160797

    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    I was always struggling with unfinished To Do Lists. After reading Julie Morgenstern’s “Never Check Email in the Morning”, I finally found a structure I could use that made each day feel productive. I’ve used her methods ever since.

  • #160803


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    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.

    I like the suggestion for calendar-blocking for tasks. And I highly recommend using Google Calendar to schedule things. I create “new calendars” with different colors to categorize, then if I need a paper calendar I just print a PDF from my assembled calendars and add it to a 3-ring-binder. Only print occasionally, and the master is always the electronic copy. And google syncs neatly to my Blackberry cell phone.

  • #160809


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    I keep three lists — a running list where I add things as they come up and 2 “today” lists — one for personal items and one for work items. I try to keep the running list color coded by highlighting personal and work items in different colors, and also as something becomes a high priority, I will put a star in front of it. As things get done or become non-issues, I cross them off and every so often I copy the list to get rid of the clutter and refresh myself as to what is on the list. This little bit of effort on the master list makes putting together the daily lists much easier.

    Each “today” list consists of only 3 things… “3 things at work” and “3 things at home”. I take 30 minutes every morning to glance through my email, answer any that can be done very quickly and flag those that need a longer response. During this 30 minutes I also put together my “3 things” lists by pulling the most important items from my running list. I use the Yahoo! to-do list, but you could use any to-do list app or just write them on a piece of paper. The goal is to accomplish the 3 items on each list every day. You may be thinking, “only 3 things? I have dozens of things to do in a day!” Well, yes we all do, but a to-do list with dozens of things is overwhelming and feels hopeless… besides how many of those dozens of things do you REALLY NEED to get done today? Better to do the 3 most important things and feel a sense of accomplishment at completing them than stare helplessly at a list with 43 things on it not knowing where to start and actually getting very little done! I don’t know about you, but when faced with a long list, I tend to start with the little things because they can be done quickly and easily and I can cross off more things — problem is I spend the entire day doing the non-essential things just to feel a sense of accomplishment and never actually make it to the important stuff.

    When you finish the 3 things on your list, you can tackle the email that you flagged earlier in the day and you can still go back to the running list and work on other things — here is where you can choose those little things that may be more fun to do. There is a mental advantage to attacking the big list knowing that you’ve already accomplished the most important things you needed to do for the day. You’d be surprised at how quickly things come off your list just by actually completing 3 things every day! You’d also be amazed at how often the lesser important items tend to take care of themselves or become non-issues while they are waiting on your list. By pulling out the most important 3 things every day you are focusing on what really matters and not being distracted by all the little things on the list.

  • #160813


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    Rather than put items on a day to day list the only thing that goes on the calendar are those things that must happen that day or time, appointments and the like. Otherwise my todo lists are free floating. I use GTD methodology to split them into the contexts in which I can get them done and only review the list for what I can actually accomplish where I am. So the list of errands is separated from the list of stuff to do inside the house without help. If I am out I only see things on errands, if I am inside and no one is around I can work only on things that need no assistance. I use Ombnifocus on my mac to manage all my lists and projects.

  • #160839


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    “To Do” lists can be a bit tricky. I usually tell my clients to put everything they want to accomplish in a given day on a list – 5 things…10…50… (hopefully, no one has 50 things that must be done in one day). The next step is to pick the TOP ONE or TWO things that MUST to be done on THAT DAY.

    Be realistic:

    (1) How long will it take you to accomplish each task?
    (2) Are there multiple steps to completing each task? How long will it take to do each step?

    Priorities are typically driven by:

    (1) Time (e.g., pick up the kids by noon)
    (2) Money (e.g., deposit $$ to pay a bill <– this one’s time & money; get $$ that’s owed to you)
    (3) Sentiment (e.g., spend quality time with your favorite person)
    (4) 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.

  • #160867

    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    I used to be a mega to-do list maker. Putting everything on that list because I loved the sense of accomplishment when I could cross things off. Then lately – the last few months or so – I noticed I just wasn’t getting anything done on the list. I just hit this point where I had no motivation to do anything after work and seeing a long list just made it worse. So the past month I have started making a “3 Goals Today” list. I narrow down things until I have the three most important things and then write them down, as well as a reward for doing them (like being able to sit down & knit guilt-free or being able to sit & watch a tv show guilt-free).

  • #160934


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    Thanks for all the suggestions! After reading everything and thinking things through, I realized that my problem has a lot more to do with being distracted than anything else. On the other hand, I love the discussion and am fascinated with all the different ways we do things. I hope other enjoyed it and found it useful as well 🙂

  • #197024


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

  • #197067


    Making Realistic To-Do Lists

    The new type of spam – the helpful kind… Lol.

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