Selecting a medium of writing, making a realistic work schedule, and choosing the task to embark on - 3 key strategies in making an efficient to-do list.

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culled from Carl Heyerdahl on unsplash
culled from Carl Heyerdahl on unsplash

Way before the pandemic started, I was a firm believer in the use of a To-Do list. I believe in planning my day in other to identify my effectiveness or lack of it. I took time management very seriously, with the popular mantra – “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail’’, hung in my study area to remind me to schedule my day. However, as soon as the pandemic started and people were faced with a difficulty of making judicious use of their time as there were no set rules other than the ones they planned for themselves, it became really tough-It is worse when they have children or other activities that encroach on valuable time. As an ardent supporter of the use of a to-do list as a time management tool, I encouraged people to create a to-do list in order to manage time effectively. 7 in 10 of these people often reported it was not working or get frustrated when they cannot meet up with the deadlines they set for themselves. I have been where this people have been. I have tried different methods and found the one that works for me.

A to-do list is the sacred technique of organizing your day. According to some experts, it is a written proof of our productivity. However, many people struggle to make good use of this effective but simple method of time management. The question of what “the right way to write a to-do list” is has plagued the minds of lots of people since time immemorial. In the subsequent paragraphs, I would be sharing tips on creating an efficient and effective to-do list.

Selecting a medium of writing

  Personally, I think the traditional method of pen and paper works best, preferably in a diary.  However, you can use a device. Another medium is writing on a Kanban board. The Kanban board is said to help the user visualize the task ahead. It was originally designed for the work place; however, it becomes handy when organizing your personal life. Using a Kanban board is simple.

  • Start by finding a whiteboard. I prefer a traditional board, but you can always use a device. However, keep in mind that tasks would be moved from one column of the board to the other
  • Divide the board into 3 columns; To-do, Doing and Done
  • Write individual tasks on cards/sticky notes and paste on the to-do list column.
  • Once a task has been started, it should be moved to the doing column.
  • Once completed, moved to the done column.

This method is both fun and engaging. For best use, it should be placed where it could be easily visualized.

Make a realistic work schedule

       One way many people set their to-do list up for failure is including too many items on their list. When we overstuff our list with too much goals our productivity suffers and at the end of the day when we fall short of the goals, our mental health also suffer. The following tips will help in making a realistic schedule;

  • When making a list, remember to put into consideration time spent on other miscellaneous activity like social media, catching up with friends, TV, if you have kids you have to consider interruptions from them.
  • Make your list flexible. It is okay to cancel off a task you feel is not needed for the day.
  • Be more specific instead of writing in vague terms. Take for instance, instead of including just “writing” In my list, I tend to be more specific and include “write 1000 words on time management”. This way I tend to celebrate little achievements.
  • For big projects, learn to break it into smaller chunks. This way you do not get overwhelmed and feel you achieved nothing when the day ends.
  • Use Time blocking. It involves the allocation of individual task to a specific time slot.

Choosing the task to embark on.

There are several techniques to enable you chose a task to focus on. however for the purpose of these article I would discuss the two popular technique which is the Eisenhower matrix and the 1-3-5 list

  1. Eisenhower Matrix: The Eisenhower matrix is a simple tool that focuses on the effectiveness of our daily tasks rather than just productivity. It categorizes a task into four categories:
  • Urgent and important: these tasks are meant to be tackled immediately.
  • Important but not urgent: these tasks should be scheduled for another time.
  • Urgent but not important: these tasks should be delegated.
  • Neither urgent and nor important: these tasks should be crossed off the list.

2. THE 1-3-5 list: The 1-3-5 list considers task size rather than urgency. It is a simple yet effective tool for productivity. You can either use paper and a pen or the numerous apps available. The method of selection include:

  • Fill out the first slot of the list with the biggest task of the day.
  • Choose 3 smaller but still important tasks and fill the middle slot.
  • The last 5 slots should be 5 items that can be easily taken off.

Even as we prepare to face a second wave of the pandemic, there is an increased need to organize our lives and adjust to our new normal. Are there other techniques of creating a to-do list that you have tried or any tip that worked for you? I would love to hear from you. please drop a comment below.

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