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.
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If you want to read more on time management I’d recommend Michael Heppell’s How to Save an Hour Every Day and Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog!
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Another brilliant book which I have reread many times focuses on managing energy not time – Jim Loehr’s The Power of Full Engagement – a total game changer! It’s seems to be out of print so it might have to be a used copy or maybe try his book called On Form: Achieving High Energy Performance.
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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.
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Six Easy Steps To Achieving More
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 Now onto the, often daunting, To Do list. Follow these Top 6 Tips and let me know how you get on:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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This quotation couldn’t put it any better…
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Organise
the end of the daunting to do list blog

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