A Double Take To-Do List

Spending 10-15 minutes to formally plan your day is a great tool for focusing on what matters most to you. But there is nothing worse than making a list of 30 things to do and then finding at the end of the day that you only had time for 10.

Consider a double review of your to-do list. Start with brainstorming/reviewing your list of things to do. Now, prioritize the list in order of those things that have to get done first – those things that are most important. Once prioritized, place your task list next to a list of the hours in the day (you can make a list of the hours of the day on a piece of paper, use a planner that lists the hours of the day, the Calendar in Outlook, etc.). Starting with your first task, block out when you are going to do that task on your calendar and how long it will take. Then continue down your task list blocking out times when you are going to accomplish each task. Easy enough?

Some tasks are simple and only take a few minutes (you can list multiple tasks in a block of time). Some tasks are more complex and you might only be able to block out a small portion of time to work on the task and come back to it tomorrow (e.g. Work on next years budget that is due next week). What you might initially find is that about half way down your list you have run out of time in the day to get all of your tasks done. That is OK! As long as you truly prioritize your list, you will have planned for the most important things that you need to get done today.

With the remaining tasks that you don't have time today for you can forward them on to tomorrow or another day. You can also consider deleting the unimportant tasks and delegating those items that someone else can help you with.

Two more tips: Tip #1; remember to build in some gaps in your schedule for interruptions and the unforeseen. If you get behind in your day and your schedule is too full, there is no catching up unless you have a buffer or two built into your plan. Tip #2; to keep on schedule, try setting the alarm on your cell phone, wrist watch or buy an "egg timer" that you can set for the amount of time that you have allotted to focus on your task. When the alarm rings, it is time to move on. If you can't move on, then consider how your schedule will have to change and what won't get done as a result.

At first this exercise seems like a hassle and that it is time consuming. But, if you will try it for a week you will find that you have become better at estimating your time and what you can realistically accomplish in a day. You will also become more focused on your scheduled tasks because you have blocked out time for them.