To Do List Going Unfinished? Here’s what to do first.

Many people can’t work without a to-do list. Whether a handwritten list in a notebook (like me) or an app that keeps you in check of your tasks, they keep us grounded and level with what needs doing. The problem is, these lists don’t always get completed when you want them to. You push tasks to the next day (or next week), get distracted with office goings-on, and convince yourself that your future-self will deal with it (also quilty). Perhaps you just can’t understand why your lists go unfinished in the first place. To reclaim your productivity, your to-do list may need a makeover. Try some of these techniques.

SORT OUT THE TASKS THAT GET LEFT BEHIND

Think about those things that end up on your to-do list frequently; it might be a daily task that simply needs doing, for example. The problem is you might not have time for this task or simply don’t want to do it. If it’s at the back of your mind that you haven’t done it yet, it can interfere with your to-do list as you procrastinate to avoid it. The solution comes in many forms; you either ensure that it is done at a specific time (early morning works best, then it is out of your way), or you delegate it to someone else to deal with, freeing you from its responsibility and ultimately providing you with the satisfaction that it will be done well while allowing you to get on with tasks you really need to concentrate on.

MAKE IT A REALISTIC LIST

Many to-do lists don’t get completed because they’re not realistic. So many people want to have the sweet satisfaction of crossing off task after task, that the list they create doesn’t always encompass everything. What about that email you have to send, or the phone call you have to make about the unpaid invoice? Tasks included should be anything that is going to be done from the moment you sit at your desk, to the end of the day. Without a list that is realistic, you’ll never really reach the end of your list. When you sit down at the start of the day, write everything down.

THE BIG TASKS

This can be tough, but those brave enough to venture down this route find that their to-do lists are frequently accomplished. Think of that meaty task that takes quite a lot of work. It’s easy to push it to the afternoon but if you aim to complete the bigger task before the middle of the day, you’re more likely to reach that end goal. It frees your afternoon for the smaller, quicker tasks and the emails that have arrived mid-morning, and the assurance that you might actually finish when the clock hits 5pm.

REVIEW MEETING TIMES

Meetings are important for business, that’s a fact. Analyze your average week and document how much time you spend in meetings; for many, it’s a pretty large number. Meetings can’t be cut most of the time since they do play a big and essential part of every individual’s calendar, but they can be restructured to ensure that your time is more productive. If you’re calling a meeting, consider if it is needed or whether it can be done over a ten minute phone call. Instead of just scheduling a meeting at 1pm and leaving it open ended, state that it will be 30 minutes long; this reduces the likelihood of it overrunning. This will also increase productivity in the meeting; with a set time in place, everyone will be on their game and make sure what needs discussing is conversed.

USE THE CALENDAR

The calendar on your email system is a bigger tool that many give it credit for. It is mostly utilized for scheduling meetings and establishing when people are available, but it can be used as a great way for meeting your daily to-do goals. For example, if you’re aware that your email to-do list never gets completed each day, block off a certain time in your calendar each day to do this. Early morning often works best, but late afternoon is also a practical option. If you work well to pressure and deadlines, schedule tasks in your calendar daily and ensure that you’re aiming to get them done before the reminder goes off for their completion.

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