The Art of a TRULY Effective "To Do" List

Sometimes it's difficult to stay focused. It happens to everyone.

In fact, just yesterday I was watching as one of my 10-month-old twin sons tried to get to the dog's water bowl. He scooted the hard plastic bottom of his activity center across the living room (& our nice hardwood floor)… one short clip at a time.

It was taking a lot of effort, but he persisted—a fierce expression of determination etched across his brow. But about three minutes into his pursuit, he eyed a toy fish…

He paused, smiled... lunged for the fish… and the rest was history.

The pursuit of the goal was over. The water bowl quickly became a distant memory.

We all get distracted. Whether we're 10-months old or 60 years old. Life is full of distractions. The "To Do" List can be an invaluable tool for reigning in your attention and helping you reach your goals. But only when it's used correctly.

Here, I've taken some of the leading time management gurus' tips for making these lists effective—and rolled in what works best for me, personally.

1. PLAN AHEAD. A great time to draft your "To Do" List is the evening before when work deadlines, etc. are fresh in your mind. When you sit down the morning of, you can always refine your list.

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE. My idea of simple and your idea of simple are probably different. For me, using Microsoft Word for my "To Do" Lists works the best. I don't like be tied to my cell phone, so whatever cool apps that are out there aren't for me. The key is to find what works for you, but to also not get too hung up on the actual "To Do" List. The list is a means to an end: getting things done. NOT creating cool "To Do" Lists.

3. ESTABLISH MITs. This is something David Allen discusses in depth in his book, "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity." (If you're in the market for a fantastic book on time management, this is one to check out.) MIT = Most Important Tasks. Label three tasks on your list as MITs and make sure that these get highest priority.

4. BE FAITHFUL. The more faithful (& accountable) you are to your "To Do" Lists, the more effective a tool they will be for you. If you could care less about checking items off once you've jotted them down, "To Do" Lists will just be a waste of time and energy.

5. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. If, throughout the day/evening, you think of other things that need to be done—but that aren't time-sensitive—jot them down in a separate column. One you will use for items that will no doubt appear on future "To Do" Lists. Do this without fail and you'll be able to free energy for the tasks at hand.

6. DON'T BE OVERLY AMBITIOUS. This has always been my weakness with "To Do" Lists. There are only so many hours in the day. Ensure that you recognize that when constructing your lists so that you don't end up setting yourself up for failure. Be realistic with the number of hours your tasks should take and how many hours you have to complete them.

7. BATCH PROCESS TASKS. Batch process some tasks. I do this with phone calls (I loathe the phone), emails I need to respond to and certain household items. When I need a break from tasks that require a lot of thought, I'll get up from my desk, set my egg timer for 20 minutes or so and knock out several items that need to be done, but can be done quickly. By setting a time limit, I stay focused and ensure that I spend no more time than necessary on any of these items. It's also fun to see how quickly I can knock these things out.

8. TAKE ACTION. A nicely typed & formatted "To Do" List is a beautiful thing, but worthless unless you "work it" by taking action. Sometimes getting started is difficult though. Which leads me to my next point…

9. BUILD MOMENTUM. Some days it's easier to motivate yourself than others. Perhaps you're overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done. Maybe you didn't get a good night's sleep. Whatever the reason, you might want to start off these potentially difficult days by working your list with easy-to-do tasks that don't take much time. You'll find it encouraging when you're able to cross a few things off and build momentum.

10. RE-PRIORITIZE PRIORITIES QUICKLY. There's a certain flexibility that you have to maintain when working with a "To Do" List. Life is fluid and things come up. My rule of thumb is that when things DO come up, to weigh their importance against the items on my "To Do" List. If the new items aren't as important or aren't as time sensitive, I add them to my long-term column and continue with my work at hand.

11. AVOID EXCESSIVE ROLLING OVER. I only allow myself to "roll" 2 items in any given day, meaning to transfer those two unfinished items to the next day's "To Do" List. You might want to try doing the same. If you have low expectations of how well you'll complete your "To Do" List, its effectiveness will be low, too.

If you've had trouble in the past with developing effective "To Do" lists, keep these 11 tips in mind.

Not only will you be able to accomplish more in less time, you'll find yourself more focused on and accomplishing more of the right tasks.

Have fun!

Jennifer Minar-Jaynes is the author of the bestselling mystery/suspense novel, NEVER SMILE AT STRANGERS. She blogs about nutrition and holistic living at

EasyPublish this article:

Free Flash TemplatesRiad In FezFree joomla templatesAgence Web MarocMusic Videos OnlineFree Website templateswww.seodesign.usFree Wordpress Themeswww.freethemes4all.comFree Blog TemplatesLast NewsFree CMS TemplatesFree CSS TemplatesSoccer Videos OnlineFree Wordpress ThemesFree CSS Templates Dreamweaver