How top performers make their to-do lists


As a working mom, I live by my to-do lists. From deadlines, appointments, and meetings to playdates, pediatric follow-ups, and nanny pay days, nothing escapes my long-winded lists.

But it’s easy to get caught up in which fancy app or system you should use for your list. Lots of (very nerdy) internet arguments center around the right approach. Should you stick to pencil and paper? An iPhone app?

“I’m a firm believer in David Allen’s Getting Things Done philosophy — that ‘your mind is for having ideas, not holding them,’” said Liz Sumnera productivity coach. In that case, getting to-dos out of your brain and into a system you trust is the best way to focus and perform your best work. But which one?

That’s why we asked Sumner and Tor Refslandan award-winning time management blogger and SEO specialist, for advice on how to put together the “perfect” to-do list.

Step 1: Pre-drafting

To achieve the best to-do list results, take some time before drafting your next one to review your habits. Think about a few logistical details:

1. Consider your type of work. Look for repeatable rhythms in your work — tasks that happen at the same time every day, week, or month — so you can start with a standard checklist or template and add from there. For example, as an SEO strategist, Refsland says his daily core activities are divided into three categories:

  1. Rank own websites on top of Google
  2. Get new clients
  3. Rank clients’ websites on top of Google

From there he can insert other one-off to-dos as needed. If your job involves delegation and teamwork, be sure to include exactly who you need to collaborate with in your list. (ie. “Check in with Xander re. new launch platform progress” or “Discuss with Team Y new June objectives.”)

2. Do you prefer daily or weekly lists? Remember that weekly lists will be longer, which may be off-putting to some. If you prefer the feeling of starting each day with a fresh slate, you’ll…



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