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How can I make an effective 'to do' list?

How can I make an effective 'to do' list?

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A 'to-do' list sounds basic and they are a great idea, but for some reason, I never complete what I set out to achieve! Are there rules I can follow to do good 'to do' lists? Monday is almost over and I feel like  I've achieved very little.

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Mark McCormack
By Mark McCormack
26th Jan 2015 17:05

1. Don’t keep it all in your head

This is the first and most important tip when it comes to to-do lists.
Our short term memory can only hold between seven to ten items so it can be difficuly to remember every single thing you need to do without writing a list.
Rather than getting stressed trying to remember everything, making a list will help you to focus on what you need to do as well as reducing anxiety levels.

2. Try multiple lists

Rather than trying to keep a single list of tasks for all aspects of your life, it can be easier to use multiple lists.

It can be helpful to keep separate lists of your work-related tasks, household jobs and family/friends-related reminders: it’s important that each list is kept in its proper place.

For example, you may keep your work list in your work planner, computer or smartphone and your household list on a kitchen notice board and yor family/friends related reminders in your diary.

3. Lose the big stuff

There is no point putting goals like ‘get a promotion’ or lose three stone’ on your ‘to do’ list.

The point is to break large goals down into manageable, bite-size chunks. The best to-do lists focus on tasks that need to be completed on that particular day.

Rather than putting big goals such as these on your current ‘to do’ list, create a separate ‘Someday Maybe’ list for tasks which don’t quite fit into your life at the moment but which you want to keep track of for the future.

I hope these will help!

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training materials,course delivery
By bryanedwards
27th Jan 2015 09:56

1. Create/review the list first thing on a Monday morning

2. Match the time you've got available with the approx amount of time to do the tasks 

2. Tackle the quick things first to get things ticked off (I know these might not be the most urgent/important, but its motivating to achieve)

3. Have a big fat clock in your eye line so that you are aware of the passage of time

4. Manage interruptions assertively (e.g. say "I'd love to do that for you now, it's just that I am working on X for person Y. I could do your task tomorrow / Have you asked person Z to help?"

5. Keep socialising and small talk for lunchtimes

6. Ask others to give you a hand

Best wishes

Bryan - course delivery and off shelf training materials


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By clive boorman
28th Jan 2015 07:58

Hi Esther, 'To Do Lists' are of course a tool but are only effective with the right mindset.  As mentioned elsewhere it's not just a case of writing down masses of stuff with an unreal expectation that it will all get done becuase it's written down.

I literally used to work with someone that wrote 'To Do lists' but never achieved anything because he spent so much time writing to do lists.  Your minset should be focussed on things that are really important and breaking that down to manageable chunks.

To make it effective you also need to be delegating (are you holding onto things that you like to do but really could be handled by others)?  If you manage other people, are you helping them build skills by allowing them to do more interesting work?

You should question whether you really need to be in that meeting (again can you delegate or give someone else the opportunity.  You need to identify what your time stealers are and if people continually ask you questions try asking; 'How do you think it should be dealt with?' rather than getting involved.  This may need you to hold your nerve but if they are struggling ask them 'How would you deal with this is I wasn't here?'.  These are both coaching questions designed to help others find their own answers and build their capability at problem solving.

Once again the list is just the tool for it to be successful, you have to change too.




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By Mr_Lizard
13th Feb 2015 17:04

Very small.  Literally one item.  Write down the thing you're going to do, and more importantly, write down how long you think it's going to take you.  Most people are really, really bad at estimating.  They never allow for phone calls (in or out), trips to the bathroom or coffee machine, discussions on last night's episode of Celebrity Ice Dance Bake-off, or the match, or any of the 1001 things that make up what we do at work when we're not actually working.

So when you finish the task, make a note of how long it took you, versus how long you'd estimated it would take you.  How far were you out?  Up or down?  If you were over your original estimate, note why.  If you were under, do the same.

Cross your original goal out and set your next one.  Again, make an estimate.  We're still on single goals here.  When your estimates have been within five minutes of the actual time, at least three times on the trot, start adding a second goal.  Again, make an estimate for both.  Cross each one out once complete and analyse the time difference.  Was the time difference under your control or not?  Can you adjust your next estimate accordingly?

Repeat this process until you can confidently write out a list of things you plan on doing today, and know with a high degree of certainty that you can fit these tasks into the day you have available.

There are few things more demoralising than writing out at 8:45 a list of the 17 things you intend to accomplish today, and staring down 5:30 with only one of them complete.  Even if that single task was a genuine day-breaker, you feel bad for not accomplishing more, because that was the (completely unreasonable) goal you set yourself.

Be scrupulously honest with yourself on your time difference analysis.  Were you 15 minutes over because the job is horrifically boring and you stared out of the window half the time, and engaged Fred from Accounts about his weekend plans, because tedious though they were, they were still more interesting than what you were doing?  It's okay, this doesn't make you a bad person.  We've all done it.  But if you're trying to be realistic about getting more out of your day, you'll have to recognise these areas of zero productivity and work out how you're going to get through them, or get rid of them.

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