Over the last few weeks we have been looking at Goal Setting and I have (hopefully) guided you towards setting some achievable goals. One of the key elements of goal setting (as discussed), is the fact that to be a goal, a statement needs to be accompanied by an action. When you write a goal in this way you should see that there will be some steps that need to be taken to achieve the goal. To keep you motivated and on track with achieving a goal it is important that you take goal setting a step further by adding the tasks associated with the goal to a ‘to do list’. Ok, I hear you groaning. It all sounds impossibly boring doesn’t it and so far removed from where we started – dreaming. However, dreaming only takes us so far (you know this) and setting goals and creating To Do Lists around your goals is what it takes to make your dreams come true. There are no fairies (well there are, but they are busy with miracles) – sorry.
I love lists. I work in an industry that demands good organisational skills and attention to detail, however I am not naturally organised. Lists help me reconcile my naturally laid back nature with my desire to achieve things in my day, week, and life. However, just creating a list of things to remind yourself of is not enough. Like goal setting there is a right way to write a ‘to do list’.
So let’s start. In this instance we are aiming to create a Master To Do List, not a daily To Do List.
1. Write down all of the tasks you need to complete (I don’t differentiate between personal and business tasks but you may prefer to keep two separate lists – this is a personal choice). Here is a template to help you with this task. For a to do list to work well you want tasks that take no more than 1-2 hours to complete, so if the task is large, break it down and down again, until you have tasks that will fit into this time-frame. If there is a deadline to a task, make note of the deadline, even if is some time away.�
2. Don’t ‘freak out’. Your list may seem intimidatingly long, but that is fine. You are NOT creating more work for yourself by writing the tasks down…you are making them easier to manage.
3. Make your list manageable by running through it and allocating a ‘priority rating’ to each task (keeping in mind any deadlines attached to the task). I use a simple system of A (urgent or very important tasks) to F (not urgent/pressing). If you find that you have allocated an ‘A’ to too many tasks, go through the list again and allocate a ‘B or C’ to the less important ones.�
4. Rewrite your list in priority order (I use a notebook system for this activity).
With all of your tasks listed and in order of priority you now have a plan of attack for everything you need to do.
Using Your To-Do Lists
In the above exercise we created what I refer to as a Master To Do List. There may be tasks on there that you do not need to attend to for several days, weeks, even months. You should also be adding to this Master List as new tasks pop up and depending on your own situation, you may find that you need only do this weekly. If you are receiving new tasks on a daily basis it may need to be something you review at the end of each working day. In conjunction with the Master List I use a Daily List. Again this is a personal choice and you may choose to just stick with the one list, however I find it useful to use the Master List as a control document and the Daily List as a working document. You create the daily list in much the same way as the Master List but there may be tasks on there that recur on a daily basis and if this is so you can create a template that has them listed as standard.
The important thing is to see both documents as tools. By this I mean you have to use them, work with them and fine-tune them. For a To Do List to be effective it has to be engaged with; set aside time on a daily basis to review your list and re-set it for the next day.
Here I have shown you how to create a very basic To Do List. At the start of the blog I said that I use Lists to keep me on task. So this basic To Do List is just one of the tools I use to do this. As I work in the area of Project Management I also use more advanced systems of To Do Lists that help me manage ongoing projects. If you are involved in this type of work head to the Internet and do some research on lists. There is a wealth of free information out there to get you started.