Right now this very post is part of my to-do list. Once complete, I will take my overly large marker and gleefully strike a cross through its title on a list, notching up a small success for this very busy day.
It will join a host of other tasks with lines through it – some significant, some menial, some entirely unrelated to work. But if all goes well by the time I’ve queued up Netflix late tonight a welcome feeling of accomplishment will lull me to sleep.
Which begs the question, why are some days achievable and others the goal posts seem that much farther away? It all comes down to the mix-tape that is your to-do list, and striking the balance that works for you.
So here are five tips for compiling a rockin’ great daily to-do list…
A little forethought
It’s widely accepted that one of the key traits of success is preparation, and when it comes to the daily to-do list, that preparation is often started the night before. Just five minutes spent nutting out what you hope to accomplish the following day helps get the next morning off to a flying start. That’s not to mention it helps eliminate the endless inner dialogue as you lie in bed at night running through a list of tasks over and over again.
So plan your day the night before and, not only do you get a better rest, you awaken refreshed, with a clear and realistic guide to what needs to happen next.
Break it down
Chances are your day comprises a lot of simple tasks with each competing for your attention. So break it down, and list each single task in order, including time for lunch. There’s a few reasons for this level of detail:
1) It allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment as you cross items off
2) You have a sequence of what needs to occur in order of priority
3) It ensures you don’t forget anything
4) You allow each task your undivided attention
5) If you allocate your time, you use it wisely
You need to consider: What are the most critical brush strokes that need to be made today to ultimately paint the big picture, in what order, and how do they fit with the schedule of your day?
Keeping it real
Yep, your ultimate to-do list is long, but your daily version of this may not be. The key is to set realistic goals and account for everything, including your time. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to put everything in your head on that list…but truth is that only leaves you feeling like an underachiever at the end of the day, with a heart rate in the fight or flight zone.
Ensure your tasks are reasonable and set into small chunks, that they factor in: time to be a parent, time for relaxation, time for unexpected phone calls and time for very specific tasks like a set period to answer emails, invoice or finalise items.
Keep your focus
Take a deep breath folks, I’m about to reveal a secret…emails will still be there to answer in an hour, and phone calls can be returned. Be still your beating hearts, now. I’m telling you this for a reason. When you set your phone to silent and allocate uninterrupted time to just work specifically on one project at a time, you maintain your focus, often completing the task faster.
Tools at your disposal
Some people like a simple list, others a whiteboard, and others still employ more technical tools like calendars and apps that sync across devices. Whatever works best for you is the best choice, but there are some fabulous tech tools that allow you to schedule to-do lists for multiple people and incorporate recurring reminders.
The last item (on this list)
No matter how well you plan your day, it’s fair to expect the unexpected. But with a little pre-planning, simple tasks and reasonable goals, chances are you won’t feel ambushed, you will feel you have achieved something, and you will be important brushstrokes closer to completing the big picture.
Now, where’s that big black marker?