Small Business Services

Resolve to Live by Your To-Do List in 2016: 7 Tips

Who needs a to-do list?

Seriously, who does? If you’re the manager of a large department or a middle manager in a big company, you probably have a proprietary, collaborative application that helps you create and share schedules, task lists, and deadlines. If that’s not the case, if you’re a sole proprietor or very small business, you may keep up with your workload using a simple project manager.

To-do lists are different. Even if you’re privy to a dedicated application that helps employees stay in touch and stay on track, you may keep a private list that mixes business and personal. You might write it by hand in a notebook (some experts say that the act of writing helps you remember things better). Or maybe you’ve invested in an expensive time-management system that locks you into a specific framework and provides a lot of inspirational quotes.

A Dearth of Good Solutions

There’s no shortage of computer applications that can keep your to-do lists neat and well-organized. One problem with a lot of the to-do list managers available today for desktop and mobile devices, though, is that they require too much input. If you want to add things like Due Date, Priority, Estimated Time, Progress, etc., you might as well invest in a simple, inexpensive project manager.

On the other hand, some to-do list solutions are too simple and/or just not designed very well, like the task and to-do lists in Microsoft Outlook.

Since the early days of desktop computing, countless companies have developed what used to be called “Personal Information Managers” (PIMs). They don’t call them that anymore because they don’t exist in any great numbers anymore. No one has yet come up with the combination of features and customizability that would make them an industry standard, like Microsoft Word is for word processing.

Nor will any company probably ever devise this magic formula. Personal information is personal. How we choose to organize our days varies so much more than how we compose a business letter, write an article, or create a flyer.

Universal Tips

However you choose to build your to-do list, there are steps you can take to improve the chances that you’ll stick with it. The first is to simply stick with it. Make a commitment. Keep trying to make it work for you. If it’s not working, change your method.

You may think you have a good idea of everything that needs to be done in a day. But do you? If you forget to glance at your calendar, you can miss important appointments. Same goes for your to-do list.

Other things you can do to be as vigilant about checking your to-do list as you are about scanning your Facebook feed include:

Don’t let it out of your sight. Keep it close at hand and consult it frequently during the day. At least look at it every time you finish a task.

Be specific. Instead of writing, “Work on conference sessions,” say something like:

  • Contact all speakers who haven’t sent in outlines,
  • Write opening page for marketing brochure, and,
  • Arrange for all break refreshments.

Only schedule about 80 percent of your day. This will be especially helpful if you’ve grown frustrated with your inability to complete your days’ tasks. Better to have some time left over for tomorrow’s planning and work.

Before the work week starts, write a list of everything that needs to be accomplished. Use broad strokes here. Leave the specifics for your daily list.

Take time at the end of the workday to prepare the next day’s list. This is a good way to ease out of the day, and it makes it easier to jump into your tasks the next day.

Keep your to-do lists as work histories. As you go through the day, add tasks that weren’t on your list that you did anyway.

Depending on the type of work you do, your to-do list may consist of a half-dozen items that get checked off neatly — or it may be lengthy and detailed. Either way, it can help you accomplish what needs to be done, identify problem areas, and serve as a reminder of where you’ve been.

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