Your Long To-Do Lists Aren’t Working. Here’s Why:
Home and work life can often feel like a never ending list of things to do. Yet, we are often too overwhelmed by the list itself that we’re left with no energy to get anything done. Making an ongoing list is important to keep track of all things “adulting,” but they are often ineffective.
The reason is because you’re not prioritizing your lists properly. Focusing on just three tasks per day is a functional mental trick to improve overall productivity.
Peter Drucker’s Rule on Prioritizing Lists
If you don’t know who Peter Drucker is, Google him. And if you’re interested in becoming a better manager, read his books (or the CliffsNotes). In his book The Effective Executive, he expresses the importance of proper prioritization. His method? Pick the three most important tasks for your day. Choose based on the goals most important to your heart. Aim to get…wait for it, ONE done.
The first priority should always be completed before thinking about the second or third. Okay, I know what you’re thinking… “One?! But I have 1 million things to do!” I know, me too. But if you get the most important item on your list done first, the rest of the items will be easier. You will find yourself less distracted, more focused, and more motivated, as you’ve already accomplish the most important task. Seem unrealistic? With a little help from Peter Drucker I present a step-by-step way to prioritize like a pro.
How to Prioritize To-Do Lists Like a Pro (Steps):
Step 1: Choose your organizational tool or app
The most important part of being consistently organized is finding the best method to keep track of your tasks. Since I work with multiple companies as a project manager, I use an app called Trello. This is a free mobile and desktop app allows you to create “boards” and various lists for each board. Trello works for me because it allows me to make boards for each client I’m working with and their projects. Monday.com is similar, but has a monthly fee and much more in-depth features. However, you might find the Notes app on your phone or computer is sufficient. Or, if you’re old school – a plain old notebook! Whatever your tool may be, choose the one you’re most comfortable with.
Step 2: Make two lists – “Ongoing” and “Today”
First, make two lists: “Ongoing” (for all the things you have to do), and “Today” (for the 3 tasks you’ll choose for each day).
Of course, the Ongoing list is where you’ll add everything you need to get done indefinitely (within reason!). It will also be the list where if something comes up, you quickly add to that list.
You will use the “Today” list to track the tasks you plan to get done each day.
Step 3: Organize both lists into 3 categories
The next step to do is organize both of your lists into the same three categories. Now, I am suggested the following categories, but you should choose your own. The important thing is keeping the number of categories to a minimum. The goal here is to simplify. The three categories I suggest are:
- Work – Your “work” list will include all tasks related to your job.
- Home – Your “home” list should include all tasks related to home life and family (i.e. laundry, grocery list, taxes, appointments for children, etc.).
- Health – Your “health” list should include only personal health activities (i.e. workouts, calling your mom, writing a Thank You card, etc.).
The “Ongoing” list will have these three categories, and your “Today” list will always have the same three categories.
Step 4: Move the most important items from “Ongoing” to the “Today” list, each day
Each day, take the top three most important items from your “Ongoing” list, and add it to your “Today” list. Somedays might have only work items, others just home or health.
I highly suggest, though, that everyday you choose one “Health” item. Whether that’s seeing your friend, or getting in a workout, prioritizing mental and physical health daily has extraordinary benefits.
Once you’ve conquered your three items, continue to move items from the “Ongoing” list to your “Today” list. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel knowing the most important tasks are complete, and you can move on to being as productive as you can be. Before you know it, that “Ongoing” list will start shrinking, and it’s all because you focused on the most important tasks first. Prioritization is easier than we think!
I would love to hear how you prioritize your work, home, and personal life. Comment below, or reach out.
About Victoria: I’m a project manager for start-ups and new companies focusing on public relations, communications, and marketing. I love helping new companies define their voice, vision, values, and strategy. My passions include wellness, personal development, entrepreneurship, and fitness. Read m last post on Self-Awareness and Communication here.