The Best Ways to Or­ga­nize Your To-Do List

The Washington Post Sunday - - JOBS -

Just when you think you’re ready to shift into a more pro­duc­tive groove at work, Pro­cras­ti­na­tion en­ters the room. You two de­cide to hang out, which means your to-do pile grows longer.

The next day, Chaos, a big­headed cousin of Pro­cras­ti­na­tion, ar­rives. Didn’t see that com­ing, did you?

So now, as work dead­lines loom, you have to take time away from your tasks to deal with an emer­gency. Maybe this is proof that from this point on, you need a well-or­ga­nized to-do list and the will to ex­e­cute it.

As far as your will is con­cerned—well, that’s a per­sonal is­sue only you can mas­ter. But there’s help avail­able in cre­at­ing a win­ning todo list that can keep you on track. Learn how to bet­ter man­age your to-do lists by fol­low­ing these eight guide­lines.

Se­lect a medium that works best for you. There are many dig­i­tal apps to choose from,

in­clud­ing Wun­derlist, and todoist that cre­ate per­sonal to-do lists. Also, con­sider the old­fash­ioned op­tion of writ­ing your goals down. A study by psy­cho­log­i­cal sci­en­tists at UCLA found the act of writ­ing can help you bet­ter re­mem­ber.

Cre­ate a de­tailed mas­ter list. Once you have the big pic­ture of all tasks that must be com­pleted, divvy items up ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous dead­lines. List du­ties that must be fin­ished to­day, within the next week and monthly. Post these mul­ti­ple lists for easy view­ing and ac­count­abil­ity.

Se­lect a spe­cific, man­age­able and mean­ing­ful num­ber of tasks. Be re­al­is­tic. Avoid adding easy-to-achieve items to make you feel pro­duc­tive. Make sure you can cross off all items for the day by the end of the day.

As­sign a time frame and cat­e­go­rize

each item. It’s eas­ier to meet present and fu­ture dead­lines when you track the amount of time and ef­fort it takes to com­plete a task. Sort tasks into easy and hard days to give your­self a break and re­duce stress.

Fac­tor in flex­i­bil­ity. Add 10 or 15 min­utes of free time to your sched­uled items to ac­com­mo­date phone calls that run late, last­minute meet­ings or that un­pre­dictable thing called life. Add fun to-do items. Be sure to sched­ule time to pur­sue an ac­tiv­ity that makes you feel good or stokes your cre­ativ­ity. Re­view and as­sess com­pleted ac­tion items. Why? It feels good and may mo­ti­vate you to keep plug­ging through your lists. Take in­spi­ra­tion wher­ever you can find it. Sched­ule time to up­date your list. Cre­ate a new one daily. Do­ing so al­lows you to fo­cus on and add new pri­or­i­ties.

Con­sider your to-do list a nav­i­ga­tional tool to help you move for­ward. Ex­e­cute it well and you may feel bet­ter about your­self dur­ing the jour­ney. Just leave Pro­cras­ti­na­tion, who gives you a head start to nowhere, in the dust. This spe­cial ad­ver­tis­ing sec­tion was pre­pared by in­de­pen­dent writer Robin Farmer. The pro­duc­tion of this sec­tion did not in­volve the news or ed­i­to­rial staff of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

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