Do you need a to-do list?

How to organise your tasks and improve your time management

As I sit here, I’ve got a pad with a nice hand-written list on it.

I love a list.

Somehow it makes me feel like I’ve got things under control, even if I haven’t!

We would all like to be better at time management and many argue that a to-do list is one way to do it. But simply writing everything down with no structure and no detail can leave you worse off than before. For it to work, a list needs to include enough detail and be achievable.

To find out if the to-do list can help improve your time management, then find out how to write one.

Is a to-do list effective?

Psychologist and author Dr David Cohen believes we love to-do lists because:

  1. they dampen anxiety about the chaos of life
  2. they give us a structure, a plan that we can stick to, and
  3. they are proof of what we have achieved that day, week or month.

I know I feel better prepared if I have a list of what I need to get done. It helps to prioritise and focus the mind.

The third point really resonated with me too. I’ve been known to add something to my list even though I’ve already done it, just so I can cross it off. Come on, I’m sure I’m not the only one!

There are people out there though who think we should rip up our lists. The thinking behind it is that:

  • lists can stop you being a good leader
  • we’re not very good at doing what we’re supposed to do
  • lists stifle our creativity and
  • a to-do list can dampen your mood in the morning.

Now, I can see how a to-do list could constrain us and give us less opportunity to be creative or spontaneous.

I imagine that as a leader, it can be frustrating to never get your own to-do list complete because you need to help others. However, for me it would be too difficult to get rid of the to-do list altogether and it would be interesting to know how many people can honestly say they don’t have some sort of task list.

Keeping the to-do list achievable

Writing a list won’t help if the things you put on it are simply not achievable in a day or week.

Inevitably, there will be some tasks that are quick and easy to do, like take out the recycling bin or send chaser emails.Other things will be bigger projects which may need longer than a day or week to complete.

If I have to write new content for a website, I wouldn’t expect to get that done in a day. So, I shouldn’t write it on my to-do list. Instead, I could put: ‘write homepage content for website’.

How to write a good to-do list

As well as breaking up larger tasks, it’s important to prioritise your list. Group your tasks into urgent, important, can be delegated and drop. It’s all too easy to complete the quick tasks first so we can cross them off, even if they’re not the most urgent or important.

I’ve grouped my to-do list like this today, starting with urgent and ending with drop.

  • Write to-do list blog
  • Daughter’s school trip money
  • Update the website
  • Check invoices
  • Pick up dinner (I can ask someone else to do that if needed)
  • Update social media accounts (that might have to be pushed to tomorrow)

Once you’ve followed this structure, make sure you complete your tasks in the right order. Remember too that we’re only really productive for a certain number of hours each day, so give yourself some down time.

Call my accountant

At THP, we know that catching up with your accountant isn’t always going to be top of your to-do list. However, you can delegate your bookkeeping and accounting tasks to us and free up some time for yourself.

You can speak to one of our friendly professionals at your local THP office in CheamChelmsfordWansteadSaffron Walden and London City anytime.

We’ll be delighted to hear from you.

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