How do you know what you have to get done?
- Sticky notes with reminders
- A bunch of notes on paper
- A list in your head
- A pile of files and papers on your desk
- Your email or desk inbox
So many of the people I’ve worked with have desks stacked with piles of paper, notes and reminders to organize their work load. Often they are stressed out and frustrated because they are constantly shuffling paper and notes to make sure they get it all done on time. This creates inefficiency due to the extra work of managing the paper to ensure nothing is late or gets dropped.
I challenged one excessive sticky note user to use Outlook (her email system) to create a to-do list and a flagging system for emails to get control of her work load. It took her a week to collect and organize all her notes and get the new system in place. That was a VERY stressful week for her. Then after two weeks of using the new system, she found she had more time to get work done and was getting everything done much more efficiently. Her stress level went way down as well.
Tips to make a To-Do list work:
- Must be quick to update (15 minutes per day max)
- Easily accessible and visible
- Allows you to prioritize or set due dates
The to-do list should be a tool, not a task, so find a simple way to capture the things you have to do. Setting a time limit on managing it will help you keep it as a tool not an activity trap. Doing the review at the end of your work day can help clear your mind of work and set the stage for a smooth start in the morning.
Some ideas for effective to-do lists:
- Task list in Microsoft Outlook
- Evernote – allows you to sync your computer, phone and tablet
- Manual list that is easily visible/referenced
- Other apps for your smart phone are available
If you are spending more than 15 minutes a day on your to-do list, take some time to find a new method of tracking your work load. You will get more done, more efficiently and your stress will drop.