Friday morning I asked my Facebook friends for blog post ideas. This question came from Erin O’Bryan, a long-time Facebook and Twitter friend who lives not-too-far from me, but I have never met in person. (Erin, when are we going to fix that?) Anyway, since today is Erin’s birthday, I thought I’d use her question as inspiration for this post.
I am a fan of lists of every kind, and to-do lists especially.
My team uses Basecamp to create fairly sophisticated to-do lists for managing projects, and I venture to say I would not be able to run my business without Basecamp (or a similar tool.)
On Basecamp, I can easily sort and create my own to-do lists: the tasks (shamefully) overdue, the tasks due today, tasks due later this week, etc. I can also look at all the tasks assigned to me. Team members can find their to-dos easily, as well. We can view to-dos by project to for an overview of each project.
That said, whether or not to-do lists work is a fairly individual question. To-do lists work for some people and may not work for other people. I may prefer using Basecamp and you might like a spreadsheet. Or you might prefer a list handwritten on an index card or scrap paper.
Here are a few tips to increase the likelihood that to-do lists will work for you:
Record the list. Whether you write your list on paper or type it into an app, record it! A list that is written down is far more effective than the list that’s nagging in your thoughts.
Look at your list. Basecamp is only useful if I look at my list of to-dos. Your handwritten list is only effective if you keep it handy and refer to it.
Use your list to help you focus. Once you have written a list, look at your list and choose one task at a time for your focus. I do best when I have a list, and when I prioritize the list in advance. Lists work even better when I choose a task and set a timer for each task.
Have a reasonable list. If your to-do list is too unwieldy, you may feel overwhelmed and defeated before you begin. At times, I feel that way when I look at my Basecamp to-do lists. Instead, create a list that you can actually accomplish in a day. Three or four big to-dos are probably enough.
Tell me something! Do to-do lists work for you? How do you prefer to keep your list? What other suggestions can you add about how to make to-do lists more effective?
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
Thank you my friend. One of these days coffee is in our future. To Do lists always hold such potential for me, like a big old empty yellow pad but I never seem to stick to them!
I keep my to-do list in a spiral notebook with decorative pages. It’s also where I keep notes to myself about what I want to blog about,since in essence my blog is an item on my list. Actually, I call my to-do list a progress report to imply that I actually might make progress. LOL
I so agree with all of your reasons, but especially the one about using a list to help you focus. Many days, I’ll feel overwhelmed at the number of things I need to do. Once I commit the list to paper, however, I find the list isn’t nearly as long as I’d mentally thought.
I just found a new list tool I like… Trello.com If you look at it you’ll see why.
I use To-Do lists only when I’m behind and in task-mode. Too many lists or lists that I try to maintain for too long end up falling between the cracks. I’ve even tried Getting Things Done but only use parts of that system, too. Mike…