To-Do lists are a great way to help you increase your productivity for the day, especially if you're in a career where you have to manage your own time or where your work and home life seep into one another.
As you will already know, sometimes you can find yourself having been busy the whole day, but when you’ve asked yourself what you’ve achieved, you’ve very little to show for it. Therefore, to-do lists are also a great way to get motivated - once you’ve seen how much you can achieve you’ll be itching to go out and do more!
If you are one of these people who have not yet started planning your time, here are four easy methods to get you started:
The Ivy Lee Method
The Ivy Lee Method requires you to focus on one item at a time, from most important to least important. At the end of each workday, write a list of SIX, and only SIX, items that need doing the following day. When you come in in the morning work through them in order only focusing on one at a time. Go through your list over the course of the day. At the end of the day, if you fail to complete all six tasks you can move them onto the following day. Repeat this every working day.
The idea dates back to 1918 when Lee suggested the method to improve the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s efficiency as a productivity consultant. Lee offered his method for free, and after three months, the president was so pleased with the results he wrote Lee a check for $25,000 — the equivalent of about $400,000 today.
The method works well because it’s easy to use and helps you decide on a day-to-day basis how you need to prioritise your time. You also wake up in the morning knowing exactly what you are going to do with your day so you don’t waste any valuable time and energy making decisions in the morning. This also helps you to start a task - the biggest hurdle to finishing most tasks is starting them.
The 1-3-5 Rule
The 1-3-5 Rule assumes that on any given day you are only able to accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things, and therefore narrows down your to-do list to those nine items.
As 41% of to-do list items are never completed, and about 90% of professionals don’t accomplish everything they planned for the day, the 1-3-5 Rule takes into consideration the fact that we put too much on our to-do list for the day and are poor at predicting how long a task is going to take.
A big task is likely to take you a few hours, a medium task one hour, and small tasks 15 to 30 minutes. You can also leave a few small and medium tasks blank if you work somewhere where extra work often crops up.
Again, the method helps you focus your time and energy and helps us get started on those tasks we think are overwhelming or unmanageable.
Becky Higgins To-Do Lists
I absolutely loved this idea from Becky Higgins, the creator of Project Life®. Using her method, you write down everything work-related that you need to accomplish on a page from top to bottom, and bottom to top for personal tasks. When you run out of space, just move to the next page.
Then, using a highlighter, highlight the most important task you have to do right away first, do it, then strike it out before highlighting the next important thing to do.
Here she is explaining more about it:
Neville Medhora Method
Neville Medhora’s Method is a system I’ve tried similarly myself and works by introducing your meetings etc. for the day so you have an understanding of what your day is going to look like.
First of all, find a notebook and write the date at the top. Draw a line through the page so you’ve two sides. One is going to be for your to-do list and the other is going to incorporate everything that’s going on in your day - you might want to write the times of the day along the side. Then work out what tasks you are going to do at each time throughout the day.
At the end of a task, write how long it actually took you. You might find that some take longer than you expected, while others are done in less time. This can help you plan ahead and give you an idea of the hours you are most productive. In my version, I have also colour-coded the times, so that you can keep track of the type of tasks you’ve been doing throughout the week. These are split into non-work-related tasks, such as going to the gym, shallow tasks that need less concentration and can be done quickly, such as emails, and deep tasks which require more thought, time and concentration.