Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is Your To Do List Working For You?

"Is Your 'To Do' List Working for You?"
by Marcia Ramsland, "The Organizing Pro"

        A new list each day is better than a pile or sticky notes of reminders by the back door. Why? Because a list puts your thoughts in order and keeps you at the top of your game for the day. A to-do list is a list of actions you want to remember or need to accomplish in a given day or short time period. It solves the problem of "I forgot . . ." and relieves the worry that you won't remember an item that comes up during the day.

My Order, Time Order, or Priority Order?

When you start listing items on your to-do list, you have three choices: you can put to-dos in the order they occur to you, in the time order in which you will complete them, or in the priority order of importance. As you develop your success rate with one of those, you will become more skilled at getting the right things completed at the right time.

Seven Reminders for a Successful To-Do List

1. Limit it. Find out how many items you can handle in a day. When my kids were in school, I could do nine items, but when they were home during summer vacation, I could only do three. What is your average per day? 

2. Write it. Each day write down what you need to accomplish. Clear out mental clutter by putting it on  paper. Leave a space between each item to sandwich in new priorities.

3. Verb-alize it. Begin each to-do item with an action verb (e.g., pay bills, call Mary, send birthday card, put away laundry, outline proposal, etc.). Your mind visualizes you in action as you "verb-alize" it and then write it down.

4. Anchor it. Keep your to-do list in the same place each day. Whether it's in your planner, on your kitchen counter, or on a sticky note on your computer monitor, keep it anchored in one spot.

5. Refer to it. Reference your list throughout the day until you are finished. Consider it your personal compass pointing you in the right direction.

6. Adjust it. Plan your morning to-dos the night before. Before lunch each day, plan your afternoon list.

7. Check it off. As you complete each item, check it off with a red pen, cross it off, or delete it from your computer (or store it in a "Finished" file).

What Do I Do with My List Each Night?

       At the end of every day, congratulate yourself on the goals you reached, and plan a better list for the following day based on what you did today. Probably a shorter list with time appointments for each task section, i.e. projects, email to send, paperwork, etc.

    As you practice this habit, I guarantee you will see results. Write a To Do list every day for a month and watch your accomplishments (and productivity) soar. You'll feel so good about yourself and make a bigger difference in the lives of others at the same time. Go for it!

(This excerpt from Simplify Your Time: Stop Running and Start Living by Marcia Ramsland available at Office Depot or wherever books are sold.)

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