To-Do Lists or Not To-Do Lists: That is the Question
To-do lists, either you love or hate them. Personally, I love them. The sense of accomplishment that comes along with crossing off an item: awesome. My beloved lists especially come in handy now that I’m juggling work while pursuing my MBA Project Management. They help me keep track of what needs to be done and by when.
Those who are anti-to-do claim that lists are ineffective and don’t work. Haters tend to subscribe to the belief of maintaining your to-dos electronically through sites like rememberthemilk.com. They feel that integrating your to-do list into an electronic calendar, you’ll get a more realistic picture of what your day will look like (I have the bad habit of dismissing calendar reminders when they pop up – they are there to remind me of what meeting I need to go to next, not what task I should be tackling).
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, there are a few tips you should keep in mind when it comes to maintaining organization at work, and to avoid letting tasks slip through the cracks:
Leave “bumper” space
When you’re parking a car, you don’t (hopefully) pull directly behind someone leaving no room for either of you to exit the spot later. Look at your to-do list (or schedule) the same way. It’s great to have a game plan for the day, but last-minute projects can/will come up. By not having your day jam packed, you’ll have the flexibility needed for these projects as they arise. Additionally, if you tend to be on a lot of committees and/or attend a lot of meetings, schedule yourself some blocks of “busy” time on your calendar, so your day doesn’t get overtaken.
K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid)
I always try to keep my list to one, maybe two at the most, days at a time. By only focusing on the tasks that need to be done in the next day or two, I don’t end up sitting there staring at my list feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. This also allows me to have the appropriate amount of bumper space we discussed previously.
Examine the items that you need to accomplish and then determine which is the most important. (Word to the wise – if you have a fast approaching deadline, get that task done first. Procrastination is not your friend.) Once you determine the order, do something that will help you remember the order of priority. Some suggestions: numbering, color coding, highlighting, etc. Whatever method you select isn’t important, just make sure it’s easy enough to understand so you aren’t stuck trying to decipher what’s going on later.
For some (my fellow to-do list enthusiasts), crossing an item off your list is celebration enough. For those who don’t get the same sense of euphoria, find some other way to celebrate your accomplishment. For every two tasks you get done, allow yourself time to read an article that interests you. Go for a quick walk. Whatever. Just find some way to reward yourself for your hard work. You’ve earned it, after all.
Now, it’s true that to-do lists aren’t going to be for everyone, and that’s OK. What’s important is finding a way that can help you stay on track. If you aren’t sure what your methodology should be, try a few out and stick with what works best for you. You’ll be surprised at how much more you get accomplished once you are organized.
Photo credit - lifehack.org
About the author: Lindsey Leesmann, Communications Specialist at Grantham University, received her Bachelor of Science – Print Journalism from Missouri State University, Springfield. Prior to her current role, she served as a Student Advisor in the Multidisciplinary Studies and Masters Degree programs.