Getting the best out of your to-do list productivity is a challenge when you’ve a busy life going. The to-do list is a classic way of keeping your day, week and months ahead organized. You complete each task and mark it off, which seems straightforward.
The truth is that to-do list productivity is never set in stone — workflow will be disrupted. Dates and their plans change too often, where you don’t get around to an item or the time goes over on another one.
When your to-do list gets out of hand, the day spirals out of control and chaos ensues. Maximize your effectiveness with these organization tips for your to-do list productivity:
1. Make a List the Evening Before
Details are subject to change the day before when someone calls to let you know they can’t make it to a meeting. Revisit your calendar week, and create a to-do list for the day ahead. Give yourself a few minutes between meetings and errands, to allow time to breathe and potentially catch up.
When you make your list the evening before, you’ll be ready to get up and go the next morning when your energy is at its peak. This way you won’t be late for your daily commitments, and you’ll simplify your workflow.
2. Estimate Rather Than Plan
Remember the old saying of “I’ll pencil you in?” This implies that the meeting is tentative, and may be marked over in pen when plans are solidified or erased when canceled. With technological devices, you tap your screen or a key, and it’s no problem to make a change.
There was an art to using the pencil and the pen in planning one’s day ahead. Similarly, you can estimate rather than plan your day in concrete timeframes. Note hard start times for important meetings, but also estimate how long they will take, based on various factors, such as expecting a chatty co-worker or rush-hour traffic.
Your estimates could work based on your typical turnaround times, but there’s an equation to estimate tasks based on optimistic (O), likely (L) and pessimistic (P) times of completion, known as calculating the weighted average:
O + (4L) + P
Say your optimistic time is three days, likely time is six days and pessimistic time is 12 days until completion. Plug these numbers in with their corresponding initial to solve the equation, and you get 6.5 days weighted average until completion. Who says math never came in handy?
Estimates noted in your planner will help you stay on track and mark through your to-do list items one by one. Give yourself a little extra time than you think you’ll need.
3. Prioritize With Ratios
People tell you to prioritize items on your to-do list, but your list still increases because you do not place a realistic cap on what you’re going to accomplish for the day.
Try the 1-3-5 rule, which states you should target one bigger mission, three medium-sized tasks and five tiny to-dos when structuring your list. This rule makes your to-do list more accessible to manage and effective in accomplishing your goals. If your big mission makes you cringe, try to tackle that first in the early morning hours.
Maximize your productivity by revisiting how you make your to-do list. You may need to interject more spontaneity into allowing for last-minute changes and expanding your time estimates for tasks, making to-do lists a day ahead.
Use your typical turnaround times to help you plan the mundane tasks and make your schedule fit. You’ll also notice how long other items on your to-do list take. Incorporate these around smaller, typical tasks as best suits your personality. Ratios help, too: By focusing on one big mission daily, in the middle of three medium ones and five smaller ones, you place a cap on your workflow so it doesn’t overflow.
Don’t let your list get the best of you: Take it one step at a time.
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