An effective use of a To-Do list is to make one. That’s Step One. Just sit down and write out a list of things that you need to get done. This is analogous to identifying a problem, which is the first step in the problem solving process. Take larger projects, like cleaning out closets and break them down into smaller tasks. Take something like cleaning a room, put vacuuming as an item on your list, then add the item, dusting. Then you figure out what order to put things in.
Step Two is to determine which items on the list can wait and which can’t wait. Assign due dates to the tasks. This is called prioritizing. Prioritize your To-Do list and see what small chores you can squeeze into your busy life. This is how you make the time to do something. Try to look at your weekly schedule and see where there are areas where you might squeeze in a chore and make that chore due that day and time. I use Microsoft’s Outlook program to do that, but there are many other out there, even for your phone, tablet, or other mobile device. The trick is to assign a due date. The device will remind you that you’ve assigned yourself that task at that time.
Step Three is to check the list every day. One thing about To-Do lists is that they are useless if you don’t look at them. Get in the habit of checking your To-Do list every day to see if there is something that you can do. Chances are, there will be something small that you can squeeze into your day. Then it’s off to Step Four
Step Four is the hardest step of all – do the task. You could just make the list and look at it, but the tasks won’t get done if you don’t do them. That’s the key. Just do the task when you see that it’s due. Take the next item that is due in your list and do it. this is the hardest step of all, because if the task was something you wanted to do, it wouldn’t be on your To-Do list. That’s just a fact of human nature. We don’t like doing everything we have to do, but we know we have to do it.
Step Five is to mark the task as complete once you complete it. That’s the happiest step. It feels good to check something off your list, even if you know that it will recur next week or next month. It’s done for now and that feels good – at least that’s how it feels for me. You may have a different view.
A To-Do list is a good tool to get things done. It’s also good for project management. The trick is to prioritize your tasks and keep looking at them. Little by little, day by day, the number of tasks gets smaller and smaller as you mark things off. For any project, creating, prioritizing, checking, and doing tasks lets you cross them off your list.
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