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Making Effective Use of a To-do List

Creating an Effective To-do List

No matter how big your workload, it’s a lot less daunting when you know exactly what you have to do and exactly when you have to do it. And you can get that information from the simplest of tools: a to-do list.

A to-do list is a simple scheduling tool that captures all the important tasks you need to complete. They usually cover a day, but can cover a week, a month, or any other time period.

Crossing off the tasks on your to-do list can be a great motivator– who doesn’t enjoy doing that– and a great way to monitor productivity.

Things on your to-do list could include meetings you’re scheduled to attend, phone calls you have to make, e-mails you need to write, and decisions you have to make.

Although daily to-do lists are most common, they’re not the only sort. Types of to-do lists include a daily to-do list, which is a list of action items to be completed within a business day. Or you could have a projects to-do list, which itemizes the actions needed to meet deadlines and milestones for a specific project or initiative.

A long-term to-do list itemizes the tasks that are valuable for working toward your goals, but aren’t time sensitive. These may be tasks you want to do at some point, but don’t have the time or resources to pursue at the present time.

An effective to-do list has three basic characteristics:

First, It should be written down — it doesn’t matter whether it’s on paper or in electronic format. It’s almost impossible to keep an accurate to-do list in your memory. Writing down your list and crossing off items will make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date.

Next, it should be short — preferably ten items or fewer. Trying to add too many tasks could overwhelm you and set you up for failure. Think of your to-do list as a “top ten” list with the ten most valuable things you have to get done.

And, finally, the tasks should be prioritized by importance. The main purpose of a to-do list isn’t to get everything done. It’s to make sure that your most important tasks are completed. That’s why to-do lists are prioritized. Prioritizing your list identifies which are the most important items in your schedule, and which can be postponed if necessary.