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Creating A To-Do List That Works For You

I am a consummate list-maker — I love my lists! But a list is only as good as your ability to complete it. If you have problems finishing off your to-do lists, you’re not making the right kind of list. And hey, maybe you even need to move a few items to a “not-to-do” list.

6 Reasons To Keep A To-Do List

Checkmark-Iconcan help you take control of your time

Xmark-Icongives a one-glance look at everything you want to accomplish

Checkmark-Iconminimizes mind-clutter by keeping track of odds and ends

Xmark-Iconimproves your memory by writing everything down

Checkmark-Iconfrees up mental “RAM” by emptying your brain of trivial items

Xmark-Iconhelps you prioritize your activities

Building A Master To-Do List

Checkmark-Iconkeep a notepad nearby so you can enter items as they occur to you

Xmark-Iconempty all of the to-dos in your head onto a piece of paper

Checkmark-Icondon’t worry about priority, importance, or time frame for completing

Xmark-Iconthis is your “master to-do list”

Checkmark-Icondon’t try to tackle all the items on this list

Xmark-Iconyou will build your “daily to-do list” from your master list

Categorizing And Prioritizing

Checkmark-Iconbreak your master list into meaningful categories by activity

Xmark-Iconhome maintenance, work, calls, errands, to buy, etc.

Checkmark-Iconbreak large projects into smaller individual tasks

Xmark-Iconassign a letter code to each item on the list

Checkmark-Icon“A” = must do; “B” = should do; “C” = could do

Xmark-Iconprioritize items in each category by letter — “A” then “B” then “C”

Checkmark-Iconlimit your daily list to no more than 10 items you hope to complete

Daily To-Do List

Xmark-Iconlimit your daily list to no more than 10 items you hope to complete

Checkmark-Iconinclude no more than 2 large or difficult tasks

Xmark-Iconyour daily list includes appointments and commitments to others

Checkmark-Iconalso include “A” items off of your master list

Xmark-Iconif you have time, fill in the gaps with some “B” and “C” items

Checkmark-Iconleave room for urgent items that just pop up

Developing A “Not-To-Do” List

Xmark-Iconnot every item on your to-do list has to be done

Checkmark-Iconthe key to productivity is awareness of how you spend your time

Xmark-Iconwhat you do, how long it takes, and what benefit you get

Checkmark-Iconcreate a log tracking your activities for a week

Xmark-Iconevaluate the time investment time versus “payoff” for each activity

Checkmark-Iconhow much benefit or enjoyment are you getting from each activity?

Xmark-Iconkeep high-payoff and enjoyable activities on your to-do list

Checkmark-Iconask yourself if low-payoff activities need to be done at all

Xmark-Iconif they do need to be done, do they have to be done by you?

Checkmark-Iconif they need to be done by you, could they be simplified?

How To Tackle Your List

Xmark-Icontasks should be completed in order of importance

Checkmark-Iconunless they have a specific time frame (like a meeting or class)

Xmark-Iconis this the best possible use of your time at the exact moment?

Checkmark-Iconyour goal is to complete all of your “A” items first

Xmark-Iconthen finish as many “B” and “C” items in the time available

Checkmark-Iconbe realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day

Xmark-Iconcreate an agenda for your daily task list

Checkmark-Iconschedule times for completing specific activities whenever possible

Xmark-Iconif you didn’t complete a task, you had too many items on your list

Checkmark-Iconmove unfinished items to another day and re-evaluate the priority

Making Sure Your Actions Items Get Done

Xmark-Iconif you procrastinate, create artificial deadlines to finish early

Checkmark-Iconknow your work style (long stretches or short bursts)

Xmark-Iconunderstand your high and low energy periods — plan your to-dos accordingly

Checkmark-Iconmake liberal use of memory joggers — alarms, sticky notes, etc.

Other Alternatives To Doing It All Yourself

Xmark-Iconget your family to take on household responsibilities from your list

Checkmark-Iconask a co-worker for assistance with routine business tasks

Xmark-Icon…and offer to help out the next time that co-worker needs a break!

Checkmark-Iconmake use of support staff — admin clerks, assistants, etc.

Xmark-Iconoutsource jobs to an independent contractor or freelancer

Checkmark-Icondevelop a local co-op for sharing time-consuming domestic chores

Xmark-Iconset up an informal chore swap with a neighbor

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Copyright 2009 RamonaCreel.com

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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