Making a list, checking it twice

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225/365 Reminders

I heard a business coach speak recently on the subject of productivity, and was struck by something she said about to-do lists: make sure to keep each task manageable. So rather than noting that you have to write your company’s marketing plan, break the job down into multiple steps you can tackle, cross off, and feel good about.

It’s an interesting point, and one I don’t always adhere to. My main work related to-do list is pretty big picture, in fact — as a freelancer, I like to have a good high-level sense of how much, exactly, I’m juggling — though I do sometimes write out a secondary list so that smaller tasks don’t fall through the cracks.

Which doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement, of course. Rather than reminding myself to prepare some advance posts for this blog, for instance, I suspect I’d be better off committing to a specific number — say, enough for next week. And rather than noting that I need to research an article I’m preparing, it might make sense to define a couple of micro-topics I’d like to explore.

How do you manage your to-do lists?

2 thoughts on “Making a list, checking it twice

  1. I keep two main to-do lists. The first is my “master to-do list”, which lists major tasks that I want to complete, and gives an overview of what I want to be working on in the next few weeks. I typically update this list once a month, crossing off finished tasks or ones that I am no longer interested in, modifying or adding others.

    My second to-do list is my everyday list of tasks. I try to keep the tasks on this list more manageable, things that I can get done in a day or less. Like Laurie in the comment above, if I notice that I’m procrastinating a lot about one task in particular, it’s usually one that is either too vague or too large to be really manageable, and I’ll either remove it from the list altogether or re-word it into several smaller tasks.

    If I’m excessively busy, I will also sometimes make a daily to-do list, where I write down specific tasks to do at specific times of the day, but I’m usually not that busy.

  2. I try to make sure each To Do item is something that can actually be done. Awhile back I had a task on my To Do list for months without completing it. When I sat down and really thought about what I needed to do to accomplish the task, I realized I actually had about 3 things that needed to happen first before I would subsequently be able to complete the task. Now I know that procrastination is usually a good indicator that my task is not directly actionable.

    I’ve found I work best seeing things I need to do sometime this week on my weekly planner spread (which is why the Trinote works so well for me). I can see what I need to do, and when I can fit it into my week.

    Every day I make a list of what I need to do TODAY in my day-per-page planner. This helps me prioritize my tasks, and also helps me be realistic about what I can accomplish in a day. I check off done items, and write in other things I did that day, resulting in a very complete record of what I did each day.

    After many years of trial and error, I’ve found that this combination of weekly and daily planners helps me manage my tasks best.

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