How to: Write a to do list for work
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If you’re struggling to keep track of your daily tasks, a well organised to do list could be the perfect solution for you. However, having everything noted on one big list can sometimes seem overwhelming. Especially if you’ve not written one for a while.
We’ve already covered six things productive people do every day, but here’s some more information on to do lists – and five of our top tips on how to write a to do list for work.
What is a to do list?
A to do list is a list of tasks that you need to complete or things you want to do. Typically, a to do list is structured based on priority, with the most urgent or important tasks at the top of the list, with less urgent or time consuming tasks at the bottom.
To do lists can help you be more organised and productive, and by seeing that you’re making progress on your tasks, you’ll feel motivated to accomplish your goals.
How to make a to do list at work
Firstly, choose a medium that works for you. You may prefer to write things down using pen and paper, or write them down online (using notes or Google Docs). If you work in project management, using an online tool or app, such as Trello, means you can update your to do lists on the go.
Next, make a master list that contains everything you need to do and mark any tasks that are a priority. Then write a note of the deadline of each task, and also write down which tasks (if any) you can delegate to others, or any tasks that can be done at a later time. This will give you a good basic structure to work from.
What to write on a to do list
Ideally, your to do list should only contain tasks that relate to work. If needed, create a separate personal to do list – but separating the two will help keep things clear and concise.
Specific tasks that you put on your work to do list will of course depend on what job you do, but it could include things like:
- Responding to emails from team members
- Scheduling meetings for the next week
- Calling suppliers or business partners
- Reviewing projects
How to structure a to do list
There are several ways to structure a to do list, including listing tasks by day or week, focusing on the most urgent or important tasks first, or grouping tasks by theme.
Making a list of tasks that need doing that day or week is the most common way to structure a to do list for work. The benefit of this system is that you can structure your list around your work schedule. For example, if you know that Monday mornings are busy with meetings, you can have one or two urgent tasks listed for the afternoon.
A to do list containing priority tasks is useful if you struggle to focus on tasks that you know are important, but may take up a lot of your time. By focusing on these tasks first, you’ll have more energy to complete them – and ensure you’ll be able to deliver the most important projects on time.
A theme based to do list is where you give each day a theme and build your to do list around these themes. For example, Monday could be dedicated to catching up on emails and responding to meetings requests, while Friday could be spent on admin tasks.
Tips for writing a to do list at work
To help ensure your to do list is more inspiring than overwhelming, here are five tips to writing a work to do list that you can stick to:
1. Don’t overstretch yourself
Being faced with a long to do list each day doesn’t inspire productivity, so limit your list to a maximum of three or four tasks, with two of these being priority tasks that you focus on completing first. If you find you’ve ticked everything off your list ahead of time, you could choose to complete some smaller or less urgent tasks as well.
2. Time limit tasks
It can easily happen that a task you think will take 30 minutes can in fact, take two hours. To stop you from spending too much time on one task, and messing up the rest of your schedule, assign each task a time limit. For example, if you know from doing a similar task that it takes one hour to complete, set aside an hour and half for it – the extra 30 minutes can then act as a buffer if you encounter any difficulties.
3. Break big tasks into smaller ones
Being faced with doing a big task can be overwhelming, and it could be that you don’t know where to start. By examining what’s involved with the task on a micro level you may be able to break it down into smaller more manageable steps. You may even identify that some tasks will be better suited to certain colleagues, based on their skillset.
4. Revise your list regularly
Regularly revise your to do list to ensure it’s relevant and up to date. Priorities may have changed from the time you originally made the list. Or, at the time of completing a task, you may have forgotten to mark it off. Revising your to do list also provides you with an opportunity to readdress deadlines.
5. Create a done list
Some people find it satisfying to tick tasks off their to do lists, but a done list may be more inspiring. A done list details all the tasks you’ve completed from your current to do lists.
It may feel like you’re doubling your work by moving completed tasks from one list to another, but it can give you a real motivational kick to look over this list at the end of the week and see how productive you’ve been.
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