Thursday, September 29, 2011

To Do Lists


How do you manage your "to do" lists? As I work with clients, I see a variety of tactics. Some people have the little sticky notes or small pieces of paper everywhere. Others have small lists on envelopes, sheets of paper, or anything handy. Some keep running lists in a notebook. Others have lists on their computer or in their calendars. Almost everyone, including me, gets frustrated by the unfinished lists of "to dos."

I often help clients set up action files or folders for their "to do" items. Usually we set up two folders. One folder is for items that need to be done very soon and the other one is for items that are not so urgent. The trick is that sometimes there are important but not urgent items in the second folder that work their way up to "need to be done very soon" and if that second folder is not monitored, those items can get missed. I am beginning to think there should also be a third folder for things we would like to do someday but that aren't essential at this time. This could be more like a bucket list or dream folder.

For immediate "to do" items, I encourage putting only one item on an index card or paper. Place these papers in the folder. Don't worry about forgetting the tasks when the papers go into the folder because the crucial time related tasks should also be recorded on your calendar. When a task is complete, that paper can be thrown away. ( I have one client who likes to put her completed tasks in a jar to see how much she has accomplished!) For the other folder, you can either use single sheets or lists.

Now, here is the important part. Once a week - it could be a Friday or Sunday evening or a Monday morning, items should be taken from that "Urgent To Do" folder and actually scheduled on the calendar. I recommend scheduling 3 major things each day to accomplish that will move you toward your goals. When I try for more than 3 big things, I usually run into grief from over-scheduling. At least once a week, the secondary "To Do" folder should be reviewed. Schedule a couple of items from this folder if possible. At the very least, be aware of what is lurking in that folder.

Now, everyday when you open your calendar, the important "to dos" are already scheduled. At the end of the day, if an item did not get done, because life can intervene with the best of schedules, go ahead and move it to another slot immediately.

No system is perfect. I'd love to hear what has worked for you.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

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