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Tackling Your Daily Task List - Maximizing Personal Productivity

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Tackling Your Daily Task List: Maximizing Personal Productivity.

While many of us create Daily Task lists, few of us use them to good effect. So although they can be a simple and highly effective way to enhance our personal productivity, in reality often they don’t really help us to get more done.

And whether we prefer to use pen and paper, the task management element that comes with an email package like Outlook, or one of the standard dedicated task management applications, it’s far easier to abuse, rather than use, our To Do lists.

So how should you use your Daily Task List
to maximize your personal productivity?

The first challenge is to control what goes on it in the first place.

As its name suggests, a Daily To Do list should consist only of actionable items that can be actually be done today. That means it is not a place for reminders, random thoughts, or things to be done tomorrow, next week or next year.

Before any item goes on to your daily list, make sure you have the resources (phone, number, contact details, information, access to someone) to be able to do it today. If you don’t, don’t put it onto a Daily List until you do.

Guard Your List.

Should other items come up during the day, unless they have to be done today, keep them off your daily list. Write them down elsewhere, in a ‘global’ to do list.

If there is someone else who can do a task to a good enough standard, if possible, give it to them, and make a note to follow up on their progress later.

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Be Realistic.

Overfilled Daily Lists don’t work, so be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. That means giving every potential task an estimated duration, and you can then limit the number of items on your list to what is actually achievable.

If all the items add up to 13 hours of work, you’re not going to get through them in a day and will just end up carrying them over. When you keep doing that, day after day, you feel out of control and that you are not making progress.

Recognize Sticking-Points.

If you are regularly carrying the same items over day after day, you are probably putting off doing them because you don’t want to - they are too difficult or unpleasant.

Analyze why, then bite the bullet and make them the priority for tomorrow.

Don't Over-Analyze.

Many time management systems require you to prioritize your tasks either numerically (1, 2, 3) or alphabetically (A, B, C), with 1s and As the most urgent or important items. And while that makes logical sense, in reality dividing all your tasks this way isn’t easy, and it takes time and effort. Far better to instinctively grab a few of the most important items and tackle these first.

Of course, there are other ways to prioritize, based not on the importance of the task itself, but by context.

For instance, where you are (many tasks can only be done in the office or when are out and about in town); who you are with (you need your boss, a colleague, or wife around); how much time you have available (if you only have small time slots available, you can’t fill them with big jobs); or how much energy you have (there’s no point starting intellectually demanding jobs at the end of the day when you’re tired).

So, bear this in mind when compiling your list, and make sure that the items you put on your Daily List are appropriate for the type of day you have ahead of you.

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Always Be Moving Forward.

Also make sure that your daily to do list contains ‘move me forward’ items. These are tasks that help you progress towards a goal.

If you only put on your to do list the things have to be done, then how are you ever going to make any of your dreams come about, or reach worthwhile goals in life?

So make sure that every daily list contains at least one item (and preferably more) that will move you forward.

Batch Your Tasks.

Try to put similar items together on your list. You will be more efficient if you can make five phone calls together on one day rather than make one phone call on five separate days.

Less Than 2 Minutes? Do It Now!

And don’t let very small jobs even make it onto your list. If they will only take a couple of minutes to complete, just do them straightway. This way you will get them out of your hair and build up some ‘momentum’.

Minimizing Distractions.

Even the most carefully thought through Daily Task list is worthless if you don’t create the time to do what’s on it. That means minimizing distractions.

When you need to work through your Daily Task list, take practical steps such as turning off email notifications. If these are continually flashing up on screen, there’s always the temptation to check them out. Instead, set a time, perhaps twice a day for checking and responding to your emails -there are very few that ever require a more urgent response that this.

Work Against The Clock.

You can also increase your productivity by working through your task list against the clock. Just set a timer for 30-45 minutes - you can alter the duration to suit your concentration levels - and just work as quickly as you can. Then take a short break and do the same again.

Prepare For The Day Ahead.

Make tomorrow’s list at the end of the day and review it first thing in the morning to ensure that everything is still relevant. And of course, there’s no point making a Task List if you never look at it.

Using a Daily Task List to improve our productivity is something we can all do, but if it is going to work for you, it needs to become a habit, so make sure that you create task lists every day using these tips. Most importantly, try hard to stick to your list - if you ignore it and just do your own thing, your day will just spiral out of control.

Incorporate daily task list-building into your daily routine for a week and you’ll soon see your personal productivity soar as you achieve more and more each day.

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