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Using a Project Task List to Get More Done

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Using a Project Task List to Get More Done.

Daily Task Lists are powerful productivity improving tools, giving the day much needed focus by setting out clearly what needs to be done.

However, traditional Daily Task Lists simply don’t work well and quickly become dumping grounds for numerous ‘low value’ actions that end up being carried over from one day to the next.

When that starts to happen, it’s time to change tack, not by jettisoning the Daily Task List, but by embracing project-focused task management.

What Do We Mean by 'Projects'?

When most of us think of a project, we tend to think of something big and important like moving house, putting together a marketing campaign or something even larger, such as organising the Olympics.

But projects don’t have to be so grandiose. In fact, from a task management point of view, they can be much, much smaller, so any goal that requires at least two actions to achieve can be considered a project.

So, a one-off action like making a doctor’s appointment because you have a sore throat isn’t a project, but making a doctor’s appointment for ‘an annual MOT’ might sit well under a ‘My Health’ project.

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Be Project-Orientated.

By becoming project-focused, you start seeing every task you undertake not as an isolated, random item on a Daily Task List, but as an important component in helping you complete a bigger project. This forces you to think more about achieving outcomes, not just about doing things.

And that immediately creates a structure not just for today, but also for tomorrow, and the weeks, months and even years ahead.

And by seeing actions as part of achieving a larger project, you also focus in more detail about what needs to be done to make a project happen.

So, how do you set about setting up a project-focused management structure for your day?

The first thing you need to do is create a Project List – quite simply this is a list of the projects you are working on right now, are going to work on in the near future, or may be thinking about doing in five years time. Getting all your ideas down in writing is a great way of uncluttering your mind, an important stepping stone on the road to achieving greater personal productivity, as well as a great psychological pick-me-up.

A Project List won’t contain any information about the project itself - it’s just a gentle reminder that a project is alive and kicking, waiting for your attention when you are ready to give it.

You can create your Project List using a word processor or on a spreadsheet like Excel, though using To Do List software will give you more flexibility and make it easier for you to link a Project List with other productivity tools you can create for yourself, such as Daily Task Lists.

What Sorts of Projects?

You can make a project for any area of your life - not just work, but also friends, family and your personal interests, which can include hobbies, health, sport and culture.

Your projects can be as large and diverse as you want, but if some start to feel ‘too big’, just create smaller sub-projects within them, to make things more manageable.
It’s up to you.

Very quickly you could build up a list of 20, 30, even a hundred or more projects with which you are, or would like to be involved. If you use To Do List software, you can record them in a single list, then use a search facility to find what you are looking for.

However, depending on how much you have on, you could divide your projects into categories such Home and Work, or even by project type, for instance Current Projects and Future Projects.

As you develop your own personal system, you will find out what works best for you.

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Setting Out Your Project Tasks.

When you have your list of projects, it’s time to start filling up each with action steps. Some of these will be immediately obvious, while others you may have to ‘unearth’, through brainstorming with colleagues or using creativity tools like mind-mapping.

Adopting project-orientated thinking forces you to break down large tasks into smaller, easy-to-do, soon-completed, bite-sized next actions that move your project forward faster. When you have a good collection of actions for each project, you can start to build a sequence for them – the chain of actions that will take you from where you are right now to where you want and need to be.

This process will also help you identify knowledge gaps, while these smaller components can also be more readily delegated to others.

What’s more, by working with bite-size actions like this, it is possible to estimate how long jobs will take much more accurately. And that’s invaluable when you have to meet deadlines or run multiple projects at the same time.

Making a Habit of Project Management.

While you won’t need to look at your Project List every day, you should do so regularly - once a week is fine, ideally as part of your weekly task planning session.

This is enough to keep you in touch with all the projects you are working on right now, while not letting you forget about others that are still on the horizon. Of course, which you choose to work on at any particular time is up to you and dependent upon personal priorities.

It’s important to remember that you never actually ‘do’ a project, only the action steps within it. When you have taken enough action steps, you will finish the project and then you can say it’s done.

Of course, just as with any other element of time or task management, you have to use your Project List and other productivity-enhancing tools regularly if they are to become part of your day and your life, and not be a short-lived initiative that you forget about after a few days. 

With a little application on your part, you could see your productivity soar and your stress levels diminish.

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About ShoutDone To Do List Software.

To do list software is an essential tool in our daily battle for increased productivity, reduced stress and a better work-life balance.

ShoutDone is a powerful task management system that presents your projects and tasks in a new light thanks to its unique, high quality interface.

With simple-to-use yet powerful features, ShoutDone will have you working more productively than ever before in only a matter of minutes. Your life, more organized.

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