The To-Do List To-Do List: 50 Tips to Streamline Your Task Lists

Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 1:10am by Site Administrator

Staying on top of all the things you have to do isn’t always easy, but there are lots of ways to make your task list simpler. Whether that means keeping unnecessary items out, or just getting a handle on organization, every little bit helps. Test out these ideas for the ultimate in task list streamlining.

  1. Use a small piece of paper: By limiting the room in which you can list tasks, you’ll be forced to choose only the most important items.
  2. Keep yourself to a 10 point maximum: Promise yourself to never keep more than 10 items on your to do list at one time.
  3. Categorize: Whether you’re breaking your list down by location or overall task, compartmentalizing it will help you stay on top of organization.
  4. Use Tudumo: This tool makes it easy to organize, prioritize, and search for tasks.
  5. Create a someday list: Keep aspirational tasks out of your revolving to do list.
  6. Write a Not To Do List: By writing out items that you need to let go of, you’ll free up time and mental space for what’s important.
  7. Implement a Tiny To do List: Write a list with only three important tasks for one day, and you’ll focus on the most important things to accomplish.
  8. Use a task bowl: If the order in which you complete tasks isn’t important, write items out and put them into a bowl, then fish them out and complete tasks on the spot.
  9. Break it down: If you’ve got a task that can’t be completed all at once, turn it into a number of tasks, so you’ll be able to finish each one at a sitting.
  10. Delegate: Some items just don’t belong on your list. If there’s a task that could be better done by someone else, give it to them.
  11. Be specific: Instead of writing vague tasks like "go to the grocery store," tell yourself to "pick up eggs, milk, and cheese."
  12. Get picky: Your task list doesn’t have to be a wish list. Only write down the things that, if neglected, will let someone down or make your life miserable.
  13. Hide future tasks: If you’ve got items that won’t be relevant for a few weeks, or are contingent upon completing some other task, use an application that lets you hide items until later.
  14. Start small: Start your list for the day, week, or month with small tasks that don’t take too much effort. This will give you the momentum to keep going and move on to larger tasks.
  15. Include time estimates: When writing down tasks, include an estimate of the amount of time the task will take you. This way, you’ll be better able to schedule your time and prioritize items.
  16. Assign ranks: Give each task a rating of A, B, or C based on your priorities, so your mission is clear.
  17. Use next actions: When working on tasks that require multiple actions, have only one action on your task list at any given time. Once you’ve completed that particular task, refer to a separate project list for the next action to add to your revolving task list.
  18. Set time limits: Keep items from living on your list too long by assigning them time limits. If you haven’t completed them within a certain amount of time, promise yourself to finally do it or mark it off your list.
  19. Avoid listing daily items: For repetitive, daily tasks like picking up the mail, or dropping kids off at school, use your calendar instead to avoid cluttering up your to do list.
  20. Stay on top of recurring tasks: For tasks that need to be done on a regular basis, but don’t have specific deadlines, use a task manager like Sciral Consistency. This way, you’ll stay on top of oil changes, laundry, and other items that don’t really merit a revolving spot on your task list.
  21. Use two-minute checks: Periodically, take 15 minutes to look at your task list and see if there’s anything you can finish in 2 minutes. If you can, knock them out within your period of 15 minutes, then move on.
  22. Focus on value: Set a monetary valuation on your time, and only add items to your task list if their profitability meets or exceeds the value of the time they’ll take up.
  23. Make the answer no until proven otherwise: Instead of saying yes to everything until you find a reason not to do it, start off with a no until you can find a good reason to do it. This will keep a number of tasks off your list.
  24. Do super-easy tasks right away: If the act of writing down a task will take almost as much time as doing it, leave it off of your list.
  25. Leave out the obvious: Items that tend to jump out at you when they need to be done, like emptying a smelly trash can, don’t belong on your list.
  26. Group tasks: Organize tasks like phone calls and responding to email together, and you’ll get them done quicker because your mind is in the communication zone at that time.
  27. Categorize by time: Create separate lists for different blocks of time, such as a 5 minute list, an hour list, or a weekend list.
  28. Consider reality: Can you actually do the tasks you want to list? If they’re impossible or better done by someone else, they need to stay off of your task list.
  29. Note projects: If any given task is part of a larger project, be sure to make a note of it for easy skimming of your task list.
  30. Assign a Most Important Task: Set your standards low and identify just one task that absolutely has to get done.
  31. Keep an idea list: Separate ideas from actual tasks by keeping them in a separate list.
  32. Throw it away: If you’re overwhelmed by your task list, take one last look at it to identify any truly important items, and just throw it away. You’ll start off with a new, clean slate and be able to focus on current, important tasks.
  33. Make an hour-based task list: Turn your task list into an hourly schedule, then promise to stick to it.
  34. Keep it visible: Put your to do list in a sidebar or another place where you can’t ignore it to stay on top of tasks.
  35. Put it all in one place: This sounds like a no-brainer, but you should keep your revolving list in one place, instead of where you are when you come up with a task.
  36. Use the Printable CEO: These printouts will help you track tasks and more.
  37. Color code: Assign urgency and importance, and it will be easy to see what tasks you need to get to next.
  38. Give yourself points: Make each task worth points, and limit your task list to a specific point value.
  39. Write it at the end of the day: By writing your daily list for tomorrow at the end of the day, you’ll still have the tasks you need to do fresh in your mind.
  40. Automate: If you’re using an electronic task list, make use of any functions that automatically update your to do list based on date, completed tasks, and other criteria.
  41. Use tags: For those with electronic task services, use tags to keep track of what you’re doing.
  42. Set up reminders: Make your task list work for you even when you’re not looking at it by setting up reminders through email, messaging, or SMS.
  43. Get mapping capabilities: Integrate your to do list with maps for added functionality.
  44. Share: Use a task list program that you can use with others so delegation and task sharing is easy.
  45. Take it with you: Use a task service that allows you to use it on your phone or via the web.
  46. Integrate with RSS: Share your list with others, or get updated about changes to shared lists via RSS.
  47. Keep notes: In many to do list applications, you can make notes on each item, so you can give yourself details or status updates.
  48. Stay on top of deadlines: Use an application that allows you to view deadlines at a glance to know what you’re up against.
  49. Use post its: Productivity experts may not agree, but by using post its, you can limit entries, categorize, and best of all, throw them away.
  50. Integrate with a calendar: Get an overview of your day, week and month, by using a to do list that shares a brain with your calendar.