I often get asked how I get so much done. I admit I’m a little OCD when it comes to organisation but there is a really simple way that I organise my To Do list which helps me focus on the important items and not get (too) overwhelmed.
[Tweet “There’s a really simple way to focus on important items and not get too overwhelmed”]
I’m not going to go into all the details of time management in this article. Yes, I do follow some of the standard tips e.g. only checking email three times a day and writing minutes during a meeting. I also work in sprints or what I like to call ‘Rest Based Working’ which I’ll talk about another day, but for today I’ll focus on how I manage my To Do list.
Finally, I’d recommend this old, but still so relevant article, from the Harvard Business Review ‘Who’s Got the Monkey?’
I won’t give too much away but it’s great to think about how you delegate and relevant for work and home.
Six Easy Steps To Achieving More
Now onto the, often daunting, To Do list. Follow these Top 6 Tips and let me know how you get on:
1. The Calendar – Before even having a To Do list I rely on a comprehensive calendar. I put everything in that I need to remember whether that’s appointments, birthdays or reminders to contact someone as I know an important event is happening in their life. For birthdays I also have an entry on the first of each month where I list all the people I need to buy cards and presents for that month or in the first few days of the following month. I then buy/write/wrap/address/stamp them at the beginning of the month and add a sticky note to remind me when I need to post it or give it to someone.
2. The Master To Do List – When it comes to my To Do list I find a single list, especially on paper, totally overwhelming. It seems things get added quicker than they get crossed off and if it’s on paper I end up rewriting it every few days to get rid of the completed items. On the flip side I find it not having everything written down somewhere causes my anxiety levels to rise as I have to rely on my brain and panic I’ll forget something. For this reason I have an Electronic Master List which is split into sub-categories and sync’d across all my devices. I just use the standard Reminders app but there are plenty more you can buy, for my simple system though the basic functionality is sufficient. I split it into three categories ‘Online and Phone’ (things I can do from anywhere with reception), ‘Out and About’ (things I have to leave the house to do eg errands) and Home (things I need to do around the house).
[Tweet “An Electronic Master To Do List reduces my anxiety levels”]
3. The Top 5 Things List – Each evening I create a list for the following day of the top 5 most important things to do tomorrow (and yes I keep it strictly to 5) across all areas of my life. I either write this on paper or in a separate entry in my calendar. At the end of each day I check what I’ve completed. I don’t beat myself up about the things I didn’t achieve (there are always so many interruptions in the day) AND I throw the piece of paper away. I draw a line under the day and move on to planning the Top 5 things for the following day. Carrying over any items as necessary.
[Tweet “List the Top 5 (and only five!) things to do tomorrow”]
4. The Extras – On the odd occasion that I finish my list or find I have an odd 5 minutes when I’m waiting somewhere because of the way I split my master list I can go into the relevant list and complete an item. So for example if I end up waiting for a long time in the doctors waiting room I can look at the ‘Online and Phone’ list and pick something small to complete.
5. The Achieved List – this for me was a real turning point. At the end of a day I’d often find myself getting annoyed with myself about the things I hadn’t achieved. Now I write a list of everything I achieve each day (even the small things) at the end of the day it’s always amazing to see how much we really achieve in a day and helps put any missed tasks into perspective. It also helps identify any tasks you’ve been procrastinating on (it’s amazing how much cleaning I find to do when I have a big task I’m putting off!)
[Tweet “An ‘Achieved List’ was a real turning point for me”]
6. The Review – I have a calendar reminder at the end of each day which reminds me to spend 5-10 mins reviewing the day and answering a set checklist. I’ve created the checklist over the years after reading The Chimp Paradox etc and it mainly covers mindset and helps me progress rather than specific tasks.
[Tweet “A daily review helps to continually improve”]
And that is it. Could it be better? Probably. I believe there is always room for improvement, but this system has worked for me for years and made my daunting To Do List’s a thing of the past.
This quotation couldn’t put it any better…