Today I'd like to share something with you that's rendered rousingly positive results for me lately. Particularly this past week, when we had to leave the house for drama rehearsal each day late afternoon, utilizing this plan has helped me get a little more done than I might normally have.
I'm a big believer in to-do lists, but this little two-step trick has helped me get more items crossed off my daily list than anything else I do. Like all the greatest tips and tricks, it's pretty simple but the results can have you ticking items off your list instead of putting off until tomorrow what you could've done today.
Each day when I make the list of things that need to be done, I write down beside each item how long I think the task will take to complete. As a general statement, I estimate in blocks of 15 minutes, and I always round up rather than down. So, my daily to-do list might look something like this:
Estimate how long each task will take
Schedule out your work dayNext I write out the tasks chronologically. This helps me be real about how much is really possible to get done in the time available, and it keeps me from beating myself up when some items wander onto tomorrow's list. Having things written out on a time schedule lets me see how I'm doing at a glance based on what time it is, because honestly, the schedule rarely runs the way I expect it to and I'm frequently regrouping. On extra busy days, when I'm working with a deadline, or when we have to cut our day short to go into town, it's easier to see how I can adjust.
Here's why this process is super helpful:
- it prevents expanding tasks to include related work. I know other items on the list won't get done if I take on more than the stated task. This keeps me from falling into traps like "let's see, while I'm pulling the healthcare paperwork, I'll just organize the whole file system". It also puts on just a little time pressure that requires a steady pace. That helps me avoid things like "oh, I have a few minutes to watch this one video." We all know there's no such thing as one video.
- with one look at the to-do list, it's easy to see which items can be completed in any available time slot. For example, if I know we need to leave the house in 30 minutes, in the past I might have blown off trying to use this chunk of time. Now I can choose a task that I've estimated will take half an hour, or maybe a couple of 15 minute tasks, and those things are knocked off the list.
- perfectionist tendencies are soothed. My inner perfectionist hates leaving things undone. When I'm confident I have the estimated time available to complete a task, I'm more likely to begin it. Estimating realistically but a little on the generous side gives me a pleasant sense of accomplishment and helps me feel like I have more control over time. Perfect!
- when the day is way-laid by the unexpected, it's easy to salvage what time is left. Maybe the morning is taken up by pulling together paperwork from hither and yon, but you know you'll have two free hours in the afternoon. Now's the time to review the task list, pick items that will total two hours of work and get busy, All is not lost!
And of course, there's the best part ... crossing things off!! What's your system for making a great to-do list?