5 Steps to Organize Your “To Do” List
Just because I’m a professional organizer doesn’t mean I’ve checked off all the items on my “to do” list. Managing my tasks is an ongoing process. Many of my clients struggle with this so I thought I would break it down into some manageable steps. Forming new habits to manage your tasks will ensure your “To Do’s” become “Done”!
Start With a “Brain Dump”
Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with all the things floating around in my head that I need to do. It’s hard to organize these tasks without clarity and priorities. The first step is getting them all on a list – paper or electronic. Take a few minutes to write all your random thoughts down. Like me, you will probably generate quite a list! Setting aside time to do this on a regular basis is a good idea (once a week or once a month at a minimum).
Categorize as “Tasks” vs. “Projects”
Each item on your “brain dump” can be labeled as either a “task” which requires on step or a “project” which requires multiple steps. Examples of tasks include phone calls, emails, errands, etc. These generally can be done in a short period of time. Keep your list of tasks at hand and work them into your schedule as you have small pockets of time, physical proximity to errands, etc. Another option is to set aside a block of time during the week to handle several of these tasks at a time.
Break Projects into Steps
Projects are a bit more involved and getting started can be overwhelming. Develop a checklist of tasks that need to be completed to finish the project. To illustrate, let’s assume you need to put together a newsletter for a charity event. Steps might include choosing a software product, gathering information, conducting informational interviews, collecting photos and clip art, writing the content, and finally putting the document together. Each of these steps is a task. The key is to add the “next step” of your projects to your one-step task list.
Prioritize and Schedule Tasks on Your Calendar
Take a look at your task list and identify any deadlines or desired timeframes. This will enable you to prioritize your tasks and assign “due dates”. To hold yourself accountable, make sure you schedule these tasks on your calendar. It takes time and you cannot do all your tasks in one day so don’t get discouraged. Some projects take weeks or months to complete. Some tasks require feedback from others. That’s why it’s important to create a system to ensure that you’re keeping track of and making progress toward your goal of completion.
Review Your Progress
At least once a month, carve out time to review your progress toward completing your goals. Check off tasks you’ve completed. Add new items as needed. Remember, what gets tracked, gets done. An even more important benefit is the peace of mind it gives you. That’s something to celebrate!