5 Advantages of a To-Do List

One of the fundamental tools for time management is that list of things you need to get done. It consolidates all your tasks in one place. From there you can prioritize them and tackle the important ones first.

There are 5 key advantages to maintaining a to-do list:

A to-do list doesn’t forget

Your brain is not the most efficient memory tool and will only trust systems that it knows works. Good memory recall is as simple as finding those things that will jog your brain at the time it needs to remember. Having a written list helps us remember when things have do be done so we do not miss anything.

A to-do list helps you set priorities

Making a to-do list is an important first step but prioritizing that list ensures that you focus on the most important items rather than giving in to the temptation of working on less important items because they may stand out more or because they are easier to do. Once you have a list of the things you need to complete, set priorities and decide which jobs should be done first.

A to-do list lets you coordinate similar tasks

A to-do list helps us to avoid repetition of labour. For example, if we have to deliver a document at an office and collect a document from another office which is on the same block, both these tasks can be done together.

A load of time is lost in the starting, stopping and changing of different levels or types of activity. Save time by performing like tasks together. Make all your outgoing phone calls at the same time; organize your errands into a single run; reply to e-mail; etc. You will find this a more efficient use of your time.

A to-do list tracks your progress

Using a to-do list enables you to mark off the tasks you have completed. At the end of the day, when you look at the list, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It might also have the effect of waking you up if nothing has been marked completed.

A to-do list makes it easy to carry-over tasks

If anything remains incomplete at the end of the day, it can be carried over to tomorrow’s list. This is an easy way of preparing a to-do list for the next day; by examining the to-do list of today and carrying forward any task that is incomplete.

When we talk about preparing a to-do list, there are a couple of helpful points to remember:

The to-do list should be realistic.

Don’t include more on your list than can be accomplished in a day. Projects that will take weeks or months to complete should be organized and tracked in a different way.

Prepare more than just daily to-do lists.

Regular tasks can occur on a monthly cycle: e.g., paying bills. You can create date-based lists that will remind you to complete task which are regular, but not frequent. A calendar is the easiest place to track such a list.

A to-do list can be as simple or as complex as you need. Write down the tasks that you have to complete, break large tasks into component steps, assign priorities to each item and get to work.

RecommendedZen to Done Productivity eBook The Ultimate Simple Productivity System

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The Five Phases of Project Planning

David Allen says, regardless of task size, the human brain goes through a Natural Planning Model. This is the process we use daily to organize regular tasks: e.g., getting dressed or driving to work. We go ahead and complete them without much thought. We use the part of our brain that is conditioned for this natural type of planning.

Allen goes on to say, this is an ideal model for planning projects.

The five phases:

  1. Defining purpose and principles – Here’s where we ask “Why?” Answering this question defines the successful outcome, sets the boundaries, as well as focusing and motivating towards completion. You need to know where you’re going before you can plot the course.
  2. Outcome visioning – Allen says, if you can’t visualize the end result you will have trouble figuring out how to do it. He suggests going beyond mere completion and visualizing what “wildly successful” would look like.
  3. Brainstorming – Brainstorming generates the ideas for moving the project to completion. Allen recommends getting the ideas out of the head and onto paper. Writing serves to clear the mind enabling other ideas to come through. Writing also helps keep the focus on the project at hand.
  4. Organizing – Now that those ideas are out of your head and onto paper, start moving them around. Figure out which are the important pieces and sort by components, sequences and priorities.
  5. Identifying next actions – Of course, no GTD planning would be complete until Next Actions have been identified. What is the immediate action required to move the project forward on every front.

David Allen says this about the five phases, “Worked together, they create a whole model of how we get things done most effectively, with the least amount of effort. If any one of the five steps is done insufficiently, however, effectiveness can be severely limited.

David likes to quote this 18th-century inscription from a church in Sussex, England:

A vision without a task is but a dream,
a task without a vision is drudgery,
a vision and a task is the hope of the world.

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10 Tips to Help Keep Your Desk Clean

This is one of the more popular posts at Ian’s Messy Desk. I’m reposting with some update information.

How much stuff do you have sitting on your desk or in your work area? A while back, Coopers & Lybrand (nowPrice Waterhouse Coopers) released data from a poll on personal organization. One statistic found that, “The average desk worker has 36 hours worth of work on their desk and wastes up to 3 hours a week just “looking” for STUFF!” Finding stuff on my messy desk bears out that statistic. Being disorganized is responsible for a lot of wasted time.

While there is a challenge in the initial cleaning of the messy desk, the regular maintenance often poses the bigger challenge. Here are some tips to help keep the desk clean:

  1. Sort your mail and toss junk as it arrives. Even with an in-basket, you need to process your mail dailyto avoid accumulating a stack of paper. Sort where you have places to put each category of mail: 1) garbage, 2) recycling, 3) bills, 4) etc.
  2. Get rid of sticky notes and scraps of paper. Round them all up and transfer their information tosomething a little more permanent, efficient, and user-friendly. Get a single notebook and use it torecord notes, phone numbers, web addresses, ideas, to-dos, etc.
  3. Create a list or binder of regularly referenced material, such as phone numbers, and keep it accessible in a desk drawer.
  4. Schedule filing time at least once per week. To be more productive, allocate 15 minutes each week. Initially it may take you longer to catch up if you have a large pile, but 15 minutes is manageable. We all can find this much time in our schedules.
  5. Add dated or calendar items to a tickler file system or a diary as soon as they arrive. anything you need reminded of on some future date goes into your tickler file. Every morning, pull out the folder for the day and place the contents into your inbox. Then it is right at hand when you need it.
  6. When you stop working on something, put it away until the next time you need it. Don’t leave half-completed projects sitting on your desktop.
  7. Keep nothing on your desk unless you absolutely need them. If you aren’t joining sheets of paper with tape, move the dispenser off the desk. If you want personal photos in the office, have only one on thedesk or better yet, hang them on the wall.
  8. Keep a reading folder for material you need to read. Put non–urgent “to read” items in file folder; use multiple folders if you have different to-read categories. As you receive new items, place them in the front of the folder. If the folder gets too full, toss the old stuff without looking at it. That way you always have current stuff that might go back a month or two. Schedule regular reading time to clear the material.
  9. Create a “waiting for” or pending file to hold items dependent on outside action. This is not the same as a tickler file. This is for actions waiting on an external response. I.e., you’re waiting on quotes before you can go ahead a get the office repaintied.
  10. Create a weekly appointment to clean your desk and this includes dusting or polishing. You might be less inclined to mess up a shiny desk. ;)

It doesn’t take much “neglect” for your workspace to fill up with things that eat at your productivity. A few simple and regular good habits can free up a bunch of extra time for getting things done.

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Time-Saving Tools for Busy Lives

Amazing, isn’t it? Every day, you’re given 24 hours. Some days, you feel like you’ve lived every hour. Other days, the time seems to slip through your fingers like grains of sand.

Even though time can’t be pinned down, we live in a society that tries to do just that. Schedules, timetables and deadlines are the framework of modern life. But being organized doesn’t necessarily mean living by a lot of rigid rules. It means making choices—your choices—about what’s important to you and then arranging your time and space to focus on those choices.

Take a moment to reflect on the pace of your life. Does it feel like you are rushing from task to task and worrying about how you will ever get everything done? When you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s time to pick up your organizational tools and create some time and space in your own life. Here are five easy tools to get you started.

Make it easy for employers to see what you can do for them by going a couple of steps further:

The daily planner

Many busy people find that they cannot get along without the help of their daily planner. A useful daily planner:

  • is both a calendar and a notebook
  • should be small enough to carry with you
  • should be big enough to hold your to-do list, appointments and plans
  • has a section for phone numbers and addresses
  • doesn’t have to be expensive—you can find one for around $10.

The daily planner helps prevent the urge to leave notes all over the place and keeps all your vital information together. By glancing at your daily planner each evening, you can plan the following day. You could also write out your goals in your daily planner at the beginning of each month to help you stay in touch with what’s most important to you.

The to-do list

Time management experts say that list-making is one of the most useful kinds of tools because it helps you visualize your plans. Once you have made your list, try to sort the tasks according to how important each one is. You can assign ratings or underline the most important items on your list. If you manage to get only those things done, you have still made the best use of the time available to you.

The done list

Reward yourself for all your hard work. At the end of each day, take a moment to write out or just think about your “done” list. Include all of the items on your to-do list that you’ve completed as well as other important things you did. If you’re a worrier, your done list can show you how much you have actually accomplished.

A place for everything

This well-known saying has been around a long time because it’s true: A place for everything and everything in its place. When you think of all the time spent frantically hunting for your keys or your wallet or the bill that needs to be paid today, it really makes sense to organize your living space. This may take some effort at first, but putting things in their proper place can become a habit before you know it. Try telling yourself: don’t put it down—put it away. This simple rule works wonders.

Escape from the phone and TV

This may be the hardest thing to do, but it can make a big difference in the time you have to spend on more important things. You can start by keeping track of the time you spend in one week in front of the television—the number of hours may surprise you. When you think of how much time in a month or even a year is spent watching TV, you may decide it’s time to make some changes. You might decide to turn off the TV while you’re eating dinner. Or you may choose to make certain days of the week TV-free. The extra time can be spent with friends or on hobbies or maybe taking a course at a local college.

The same strategies can be used for deciding when to use the phone and when not to. You can choose to take calls when you have the time to talk. If you don’t have an answering machine, you can unplug your phone or turn down the ringer when you don’t want to take calls.

Making time, saving energy

Take some time to find out which time-saving tools are right for you. You can sometimes make very simple changes in your life and discover that you had much more time available than you thought. Then, you can effectively use the time you do have to accomplish what’s most important to you.

From ALIS

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