To Do List: 4 Steps to Complete It and Get Things Done

Do you struggle to get through your to do list? If you do, then you are not alone! Actions get onto your list quicker than you can get them off...and eventually you are dealing with a monster of encyclopedic proportions.

How frustrating!

In this article I want to provide four tips to to give you the best chance to get through your daily task list

4 Tips to Complete Your List

Step 1: Capture everything you need to do

Write down all the tasks that you need to do.

A common problem with to do lists is that they often have a mix of small tasks such as "Call John" and large tasks "Finish the marketing plan".

To do lists can buckle under the weight of these different actions and you are setting yourself up for frustration.

For each task be as specific as you can!

For example, if you have a large task on your list (e.g. "finish of marketing plan") then try to to identify the NEXT logical step that will move it forward.

Make this next logical step no longer than 2 hours, which now transforms "finish of marketing plan" to "write 5 pages of first draft of marketing plan".

The more specific the more likely you are to do it!

Download your printable task list (PDF).

Note: Consider keeping several lists for different projects so that when you schedule time in your calendar for a specific project you can grab the associated task list.

Step 2: Organize your next logical actions

In the third column is a priority of the tasks.

A common method is to use the ABC method of priority, in which:

  • the important tasks are denoted with an A, 
  • those of medium importance is labelled B, and
  • non-important tasks are marked C.

Consider: Your most important tasks should be governed by:

  1. The Pareto principle, or
  2. Your plan that you have detailed in the 1:1:5 template.

Step 3: How long does each next step take?

Starting at most important task, have a go at estimating how long it is going to take to complete that NEXT step of the task.

This helps you to schedule the task into your timetable or calendar. You can use this weekly planner tool to schedule these tasks in for next week.

Note: To optimise concentration consider two things:

  1. Schedule your important tasks before midday.
  2. If your action is more than 2 hours try to break this down into more manageable chunks.

Step 4: Tick the action when done

Don't forget to tick the task when done.

I don't know about you but I have been guilty of writing a completed task down just for the pleasure of ticking it off.

Research shows that you get a little endorphin hit as you tick off the completed task, which creates momentum for the next task.

to do list

Online to do lists

While a paper list is a good way to start, I find that using software can be more efficient as they can remind you when to do things and sync to your email or phone.

Email programs such as Microsoft Outlook and Gmail have tasks. I also like online software programs like Remember the Milk and Toodledo.

These programs automatically carry tasks over till the next day until you get them done - which saves the time of having to make new paper task lists each day.

Related articles on time management include:

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