Figuring out how to accomplish many tasks in one day can be challenging, and that’s why to-do lists are useful. Today there are sorts of innovative to-do list apps that are out there, but that doesn’t mean all of the tasks get checked off on a list. As many business owners know, to-do lists are only useful if the person who creates them completes them. So how is it possible to develop and complete a to-do list? We gathered tips from experts on how to make and complete the perfect to-do list.
To-do lists are great if you follow through and do the tasks on them. However, as we mentioned above, often they get forgotten, and half of the list does not get completed. That’s why InfusionSoft recommends grouping related tasks that you can complete at the same time or in the same period. They have additional tips below:
To-do listing is the universal language in the world of business organization. The problem is that few people ever actually follow-up with their lists. What’s the point of writing to-do lists if you don’t use it as a reference for your work priorities? Here are a few tips that will encourage you to keep up with your to-do list:
Jot down everything you need to get done (it doesn’t have to be in any particular order, just dig into your stream of consciousness and write down the tasks as they come to mind).
Group related tasks that could be completed together or in the same block of time.
Number your list according to priority level and rearrange as needed. Hint: people often mistake quantity-heavy tasks as being more important than quality-heavy tasks. Nothing could be further from the truth. Priority should be based on a combined system of time-sensitivity, productivity, and correspondence. For example, if I complete task A, I will be able to complete task B and C in less time and with less effort, so task A should be the first order of business.
Create smaller to-do lists under larger to-do bullets. This will help you coordinate the completion of a specific project and encourage you to continue working towards your larger goal.
Mark things off as they are completed. You will feel a sense of ease and accomplishment when you visually see a list of tasks with check marks.
While good ol’ paper and pen work fine for simple to-do lists, we recommend using a cloud-based app like Todoist to manage your tasks, even when you’re on the go.
Since all to-do lists seem to do for some is create missing opportunities to take action, Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D. on Psychology Today recommends applying the if-then planning solution. See how it works:
The good news is that there is a solution – one that has been shown to increase your likelihood of reaching your goal or finishing your project by 200-300%! It’s called if-then planning. The trick is to not only decide what you need to do, but to also decide when and where you will do it, in advance. The general format of an if-then plan looks like this:
If (or When) ___________ occurs, then I will ________________.
When it’s 3pm today, then I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and work on that project.
If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, then I’ll go to the gym before work.
If it’s Tuesday morning, then I will check in with all my direct reports.
Studies show that this kind of planning will help your brain to detect and seize the opportunity for taking action when it arises. So grab that To Do List, and next to each action, add a when and where. You can transfer your To Do List to your calendar if you prefer – just make sure that you pair what you need to do with when and where you’ll do it, and your productivity will soar. If-then planning may not actually help you add hours to your day, but use them often and it will feel like you did.
LifeHacker reveals several reasons why to-do lists don’t get accomplished and then runs through ways business owners can improve their lists. The idea is to achieve what’s on a list, and if there are ways to make that happen we should soak them up. For example, prioritizing tasks is essential to follow through with an agenda. Otherwise, nothing will get done because your list is too extensive. You will feel overwhelmed and likely not complete anything at all.
Make more specific, actionable plans. Make it easier for you to get to done by spending some time thinking about what that journey will look like. If I am reminded by my list to do some general task like “write blog post” instead of something specific like “research and brainstorm some ideas for blog post about to-do lists”, I’ll be much less likely to reach the intended goal.
At the same time, don’t micromanage your tasks, or you’ll feel locked in and unable to make adjustments and respond to things that come up. Use your dones as a reference to make better, more responsive plans.
Use implementation intentions in your planning. An implementation intention is a planning strategy that helps automate a desired action. You plan out an if-then process, where you use a certain situation to lead to a desired response. Setting out in advance some specifics of when and where forms the “if-component” of the implementation intention, and the specifics of how forms the “then-component.” In effect, you’re the director in the play of your life, giving the cue to act a certain way.
Give yourself earlier deadlines. Dan Ariely found in his study that even when earlier deadlines were self-imposed, students performed better than those who had later deadlines.
Prioritize. Look at those 150 tasks you have to do and pick the most important, pressing or interesting ones to work on, big and small. It’s easier to focus on 5 things and get them out of the way than running away from a towering mountain of DO THIS NOW!
The Muse also reveals that most to-do lists do not get done, and offer suggestions from three expert sites that have solutions to that problem:
Fun fact: 41% of to-do tasks are never completed. The only way to truly understand how to use a to-do list is to know why they typically fail. (Lifehacker)
Ever wondered how much your to-do list could really do for you? It turns out that it may be the difference between earning and costing you money. (Entrepreneur)
To-do lists are all about psychology, and if you try this one special trick, you could master the mental side of getting tasks done on time. (Psychology Today)
Do you know how important it is to monetize your to-do list? It’s everything if you want to figure out what is going to make you the most money. Entrepreneur recommends prioritizing tasks based on which job is most important, and the rest should come after.
Monetize your to-do list. Determine the financial value of completing every task on your list, then write those dollar amounts next to the corresponding items.
For example, if the task is to prepare a proposal to land a $150,000 contract, write “Finish Proposal ($150,000).” If the task is to return a phone call from your number-one customer, who generates $1 million in annual sales, write: “Return Mary’s phone call ($1 million).”
Sort your list in descending order. Start with the highest dollar amount at the top and the lowest dollar amount at the bottom.
Draw a line through the middle of your list. Split your list in half with the top most important tasks at the top and the least important 50 percent on the bottom.
Spend four days a week working on the top 50 percent of your list. Focus on the number-one item on the list and finish it completely before you begin the next item. If you find that you can’t finish this item until someone else does something first, move on to the next item on your list.
The Balance Careers offers another tip that may be useful to getting everything accomplished. Create a master list that has everything on it and then have another list that has daily tasks that need completing. Refer to your master list often and don’t throw it away after you’ve completed tasks, keep the to-do lists for your records.
Your Daily Action List
Either the night before or first thing each morning, review your master list. Select the tasks, jobs and commitments that must be done that day and transfer them to a daily action list. Remember to be reasonable about what you can actually accomplish that day. Your daily action list becomes your working plan for the day.
On a regular basis, your to-do list now works as follows:
You have one master list for all to-dos;
As you go through your day and think of or are assigned additional tasks, add them to your master to-do list.
Each day, you will review your master to-do list and transfer today’s priorities to a daily action list.