Getting organized and using a to do list is a great way to become more productive, and get on the track of effective task management. Equally, task management and to do lists can be an endless source of frustration! We’re going to look at how you can be more effective and successful in managing work and your personal life, by creating and maintaining ninja-grade to do lists.
Rule One – Email Inbox
Clean it out every day – make it part of your morning ritual – and we are not simply talking about your email inbox, but also your task inbox too where you store notes and reminders.
Rule Two – Delete Old or Non-Relevant Stuff
We all keep notes of great ideas, but the reality is if you do not action them, then they are not that great. De-clutter your inbox so you stay focused on what is important and closer to the ‘now’. If something really is important, then it will find its way back on to your to do list, even after you have originally deleted it.
Rule Three – Pareto’s Principle – the 80/20 Rule
When managing multiple projects and tasks, reduce the noise level by focusing on no more than 3 to 5 active projects or tasks. By doing this you will be less distracted and be able to maintain focus and energy on getting them completed, at which point, they come off your to do list entirely.
Rule Four – Action Not Results
With a to do list, you should be focused on what you have to do to get the outcome – the outcome itself is simply the product of action, and it is the action you must undertake. With that in mind, list out actions you need to perform, and don’t list down the outcomes – they come as a natural byproduct. For instance, instead of writing down “butter” on a shopping list, try “go to store and buy butter” – actions are louder than outcomes and motivate you.
Rule Five – Use Verbs in Your Task Lists
Start your individual actions with doing verbs, so for instance, instead of “Trash”, try “Take out the trash”, or instead of, “Q2 2015 Report John”, try “Email John the Q2 2015 Report.”
Verbs indicate action, and again this allows you to focus on activity rather than outcomes. By using a verb, you will also immediately know what you are to do, rather than trying to decipher some note which may lack specificity.
Rule Six – Ask Yourself Why
Why is a powerful word, and when you are compiling task lists you should ask yourself three Why questions:
Why is this being added to my list? – if no reason, delete it.
Why am I doing this? – if it should not be you, delegate it.
Why is this important? – if not important, then delete it.
Rule Seven – Use Time Estimates
Not all tasks are created equal, some will require more time than others and in some instances, you may not be able to tackle a single task despite having all day to work on it.
It is senseless to ignore a time estimate, which will help you plan your time and prioritize based on deliverability. A basic rule is that whenever a task is going to take longer than an hour, you should be breaking it down into component blocks which themselves become tasks.
Author Bio: Jane Wrythe is a business and technology writer, with a focus on task management and productivity. Jane is currently reviewing JobTraq from Swift Software, a leading enterprise task management solution.
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