Jan 28, 2017

The human mind can only do so much. When multi-tasking has become the norm and everybody is juggling several China plates at once, relying on pure memory to keep on top of all your tasks can cause a crash or major meltdown. Whether you are a student, CEO, or stay-at-home mother, a to-do list can help you get everything done efficiently and, hopefully, on time.

Here are a few secrets to organizing your list and your life to make them a bit easier, so you don’t run out of coffee filters, toilet paper, or miss out on a project ever again.

Write it down ASAP
While there are apps such as Wunderlist and Do! that help techies swipe off items on their tasks list easily, studies show that the tactile act of writing engages different brain functions, making it easier to commit something to memory.

Count to three
Three is a magic number, according to time-management experts such as Leo Babauta, author of the blog Zen Habits. The three big tasks on your list can be broken down into steps, all leading towards bigger goals, and they can be supplemented by two smaller goals for the day. If some menial chores find their way on the list (“Order staple wires from office supplies,” for example), see if you can delegate these so you can spend time working on the bigger goals at hand. As with your love life and all things work-related, it’s about quality over quantity.

Keep it balanced
Some people equate having long lists and full schedules with being important—this should not be an ego thing. A long list does not mean you’re being productive per se. It may just mean that you are living an unbalanced life. Ask yourself how many items on the list really matter, and what trade-offs do you have to make in order to accomplish all of them.

Have a to-do date
Setting deadlines helps a lot. Some tasks have set deadlines, such as finishing that brilliant Powerpoint presentation before the big meeting at noon. For those that are not as urgent, set a do-by date anyway. Beating the clock adds motivation and helps free up more time for the next task ahead.

Check your lists
Once a week, review your list to track your progress. In the same vein, look at the projects up ahead to see if you can start doing the footwork ahead of time. If you are stuck in traffic, perhaps you can start searching for online reviews on that restaurant you are planning to take clients to for that business dinner.

Reward yourself
If you have been consistently meeting your goals, pencil in a spa treatment or ask your friends out for coffee and a catch-up date. This will encourage you to keep sticking to the plan, when you begin to realize that your load has been made much lighter, once you started working smarter, not harder.


This story was originally published in Northern Living, January 2016.

TAGS: Efficiency Leo Babauta nolisoliph Organization Planning PRODUCTIVITY Scheduling