Don’t Sound The Death Knell On To-Do Lists
3 Habits For A Healthy To-Do List Practice
Apparently, to-do lists are dead — at least according to Pat Flynn in a recent article in Fast Company. It’s news to me that to-do lists have gone the way of disco, fidget spinners, and mustaches on everything. In fact, I’d argue that the convergence of doing more with less and the blurring of lines between home and work has made to-do lists even more important.
Perhaps those who believe that to-do lists are dead aren’t actually using them in a purposeful and orderly fashion. In my early days as an attorney, I used a recipe box and index cards to track filing deadlines and client follow-up. As technology progressed and my responsibilities increased, I adopted a swath of digital tools to keep tasks organized — both for myself and for those to whom I had delegated work. My track record of meeting due dates is virtually spotless, with the occasional field trip permission slip having slipped through the cracks.
Rather than simply scribbling a note and then scratching it off, a healthy to-do list practice can be amplified with key habits; habits that you can easily adopt and adapt for your specific situation.
Use recurring reminders: Blocking off time on your calendar is an excellent way to create space to strategize, brainstorm, catch up, or just protect time. But there are often tasks you need to accomplish that don’t have to be completed within a certain time frame. If you include those tasks on a particular day of your calendar, and that day passes without you having been able to address them, then they’re out of sight, out of mind.
If business development is a part of your role, use your to-do list to set a recurring reminder for a particular day of the week when you will focus on biz dev. It doesn’t matter what time of the day you review your leads and make phone calls; just that it happens every Tuesday, for example. Further, if you just can’t get to those tasks, the reminder will stay on your list and show up on Wednesday as overdue.
Keep your list clutter-free: Your to-do list doesn’t have to include every single detail for every task. Continuing with the above example, you can simply list “business development” on your to-do list, and maintain your prospects, call sheets, and proposal follow-ups in your CRM.
Depending on what app or system you use for your to-do list, consider adding notes or subtasks to organize your thoughts without creating a jumbled list. I have a recurring reminder every Thursday to prepare an agenda and send it to my boss for our 1:1 meeting on Friday. It’s on my to-do list as “Boss agenda.” During the week, I add notes of items to include on the agenda, which I delete as soon as it’s deployed. I mark the reminder complete, and it appears the following Thursday.
This keeps your list from becoming cluttered and you from feeling overwhelmed.
Add tasks immediately: As soon as a thought crosses your mind, add it to your to-do list. Whether it’s a project at work or picking up dry cleaning, the sooner you add it to your list, the better. Once it’s there, you can spend less time and brainpower thinking about what it is that you’re supposed to be doing.
A to-do list is a powerful organizational tool and, when amplified with habits such as these, will remain alive and well for years to come.