Mak­ing your to-do lists ef­fec­tive

How to get your life back in or­der with just a pen and a piece of pa­per

Northern Living - - CONTENTS - TEXT MAAN D’ASIS PA­MA­RAN

The hu­man mind can only do so much. When multi-task­ing has be­come the norm and ev­ery­body is jug­gling sev­eral China plates at once, re­ly­ing on pure mem­ory to keep on top of all your tasks can cause a crash or ma­jor melt­down. Whether you are a stu­dent, CEO, or stay-at-home mother, a to-do list can help you get ev­ery­thing done ef­fi­ciently and, hope­fully, on time.

Here are a few se­crets to or­ga­niz­ing your list and your life to make them a bit eas­ier, so you don’t run out of coffee fil­ters, toi­let pa­per, or miss out on a pro­ject ever again.

Write it down ASAP

While there are apps such as Wun­derlist and Do! that help techies swipe off items on their tasks list eas­ily, stud­ies show that the tac­tile act of writ­ing en­gages dif­fer­ent brain func­tions, mak­ing it eas­ier to com­mit some­thing to mem­ory.

Count to three

Three is a magic num­ber, ac­cord­ing to time­m­an­age­ment ex­perts such as Leo Babauta, au­thor of the blog Zen Habits. The three big tasks on your list can be bro­ken down into steps, all lead­ing to­wards big­ger goals, and they can be sup­ple­mented by two smaller goals for the day. If some me­nial chores find their way on the list (“Or­der sta­ple wires from of­fice sup­plies,” for ex­am­ple), see if you can del­e­gate th­ese so you can spend time work­ing on the big­ger goals at hand. As with your love life and all things workre­lated, it’s about qual­ity over quan­tity.

Keep it bal­anced

Some peo­ple equate hav­ing long lists and full sched­ules with be­ing im­por­tant—this should not be an ego thing. A long list does not mean you’re be­ing pro­duc­tive per se. It may just mean that you are liv­ing an un­bal­anced life. Ask your­self how many items on the list re­ally mat­ter, and what trade-offs do you have to make in or­der to ac­com­plish all of them.

Have a to-do date

Set­ting dead­lines helps a lot. Some tasks have set dead­lines, such as fin­ish­ing that bril­liant Pow­er­point pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore the big meet­ing at noon. For those that are not as ur­gent, set a do-by date any­way. Beat­ing the clock adds mo­ti­va­tion and helps free up more time for the next task ahead.

Check your lists

Once a week, re­view your list to track your progress. In the same vein, look at the projects up ahead to see if you can start do­ing the foot­work ahead of time. If you are stuck in traf­fic, per­haps you can start search­ing for on­line re­views on that restau­rant you are plan­ning to take clients to for that busi­ness din­ner.

Re­ward your­self

If you have been con­sis­tently meet­ing your goals, pen­cil in a spa treat­ment or ask your friends out for coffee and a catch-up date. This will en­cour­age you to keep stick­ing to the plan, when you be­gin to re­al­ize that your load has been made much lighter, once you started work­ing smarter, not harder.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION MAR­JORIE CALASIN

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