If there is one thing in this world that I’m an expert at, it is creating to-do lists. It was in fourth grade that I realized a to-do list helped keep me from forgetting things that needed completed for school.
Those first lists were very simple.
- Finish math homework
- Invite friends to birthday party
- Clean bedroom
Honestly, while the tasks on my list have changed a bit, my actual list format remains much the same to do. I use a simple Ampad notepad
that says TO DO at the top and have lines with check boxes. I write in each thing and check off each item as it is completed. Easy/peasy. This is my go-to to do list format. I’ve tried more complicated formats, electronic and even using a calendar. This one works best for me for work and everyday tasks.
Online/Smart Phone Lists
If you enjoy technology, and I love discovering new things, I also subscribe to a service called Toodledo. This is basically an online to-do list, but it works well for those of us running businesses because it has the ability to track time spent on a project. This can come in handy when reporting to or billing a client.
The basic to-do list is free and I recommend you start there and see what you think. If you like it, then there are many ways to integrate this software with other things you do, including:
- Social media
- Collaborations with others
- Setting alarms and reminders
- Looking at Statistics
- Accessing via SmartPhone app (Andriod and iPhone) (I paid .99 to get the app on my phone so I can check my tasks for on the go)
In my case, I use Toodledo more for long-term projects and tasks, such as when I’m working on a project with a client and have deadlines for different tasks. It keeps me on point, reminds me of what’s coming up and helps me track time. It is definitely a time saver for anyone running a business and is very affordable, or even free if you just access online.
Why You Should Use To-Do Lists
Maybe you’re a fly by your pants type of person. You don’t see any reason to come up with a to-do list and in fact don’t want to waste the time writing one out. That’s a fair argument, but I’m going to attempt to bring you over to the dark side where the rest of us list makers reside. Here are my top 5 reasons you should at least give list making a try…
Reason # 5 – Never Forget an Important Task Again
According to an article over at LiveScience, the average person can only remember four things at once. So, if you’re like most Americans and have far more than four tasks to complete in a day, it becomes very easy to forget something. Maybe your son needs that permission slip signed and sent back to school tomorrow or he can’t go on the field trip. If it is item # 5 on your to do list, your son may be forced to sit in a classroom while his classmates go out and explore the world. Even worse, you may have to drop everything and make a mad dash for school, hoping you get there in time for him to get on the bus to the outing.
Reason # 4 – Save Time
How much time do you waste trying to remember what you’ve forgotten? Not only does a list prevent this type of wasted time, but you can glance at upcoming tasks and order them in a way that saves time. Let’s say you have to run to the health food store to pick up raw milk, to your daughter’s school to drop off cookies for the spring party and by the bank. You can glance at these items and figure out the quickest route to accomplish each task (making a circle usually works best). So, in my case, I would go to the health food store and put the milk in a cooler to keep it cold, buy cookies, stop by the bank, go to my daughter’s school and then home. Without the list, I would probably waste time by going and getting the cookies, dropping them by school, going to the bank and then to the health food store. This would add a minimum of an hour to the time I spent on these tasks because of the extra driving time involved.
Reason # 3 – Helps You Prioritize Tasks
Seeing everything written down can help you figure out which tasks are most important or need to be finished first. There is an old business rule of thumb that you should have A tasks that need completed immediately and are high priority, B tasks that need completed soon and are important and C tasks that can wait a bit and are not as important.
In a particularly busy season, especially if you are already working for yourself, prioritizing tasks can be a lifesaver.
Reason # 2 – Keeps You Sane
For all the reasons mentioned above and more, a to do list can keep your sane. When your life does a 180 and you suddenly are faced with huge stress, and we all have that from time to time, you may not be able to focus or think straight. Go to your list. Finish just one item on it. Go back to it. Finish another. While you may not complete as much work as you would under normal circumstances, you will at least be doing something which can help keep your business afloat and keep you sane.
Reason # 1 – The Satisfaction of Crossing Off Finished Tasks
It is hard to describe the self-satisfaction that comes as you tick of items on your to do list. It provides a sense of accomplishment. You can see the progress you are making. Even if it is slow progress, it is something. When people ask what you did today, you’ll have a ready answer.
Are You Converted?
Hopefully I have convinced you to at least give to do lists a try. I truly believe they help me be more productive and focused. I know they’ll offer the same benefits for you.
Feel free to post below and share your own experiences with to do lists.