You know those uber-organized people who keep color-coded calendars, never show up late, and fill the cracks in their day with productive tasks?
An admirable group. Many of us, however, haven’t yet reached their madreiga. Leaders are often visionaries – creative, innovative, big-picture thinkers. Keeping track of nitty-gritty practical details isn’t always our strong suit.
But there’s nothing like simple productivity habits to maximize what you get done. And effective leaders know how to maximize their productivity.
That’s why I’m excited to share these six simple steps even the most organization-shy folks can take to conquer their to-do lists.
Step 1: Only if it’s Actionable
Don’t place a task on your to-do list if it doesn’t start with a clear verb – a clear instruction as to what you need to accomplish.
Call Joe Cohen to arrange xyz.
Edit the building proposal for review by team.
Email Yehuda about meeting with Mr. Newmoney.
That’s step 1. Pretty simple, no?
Step 2: Actionable Dates
Next to your appropriately actionable to-do item, pencil in a clear, hard date on which you’ll do this task.
Why constrain yourself like that? Because, quite plainly, dateless tasks often don’t get done. Our brains are wired to skip over them. The more tasks you skip over, the more clogged your to-do list will become – and the more stressed you’ll feel.
Actionable dates – when you will take this action – help you accomplish. Don’t forget to set some.
Step 3: Actionable Follow-Up
Most tasks, even basic ones, come with multiple steps. A simple phone call often becomes more than one call. If you don’t get an answer, or don’t come to a conclusion in your conversation, you’ll need to put in some follow-up action.
That means that once you’ve completed a task and run that satisfying black line through the corresponding item on your list… consider whether you need to add a follow-up action underneath it.
And don’t forget to match that follow-up “Next Action Step” with a date as well.
Step 4: Time-Blocking
Assign a time-block to each task on your list. Why? Because most people underestimate the amount of time they need for a task. If you level-headedly time your tasks in advance, you won’t be left with thirteen tasks at the end of a looong day in which you only accomplished two.
Then, with some simple math, you can figure out exactly how much time you need to spend on your to-do list that day. Add up the time blocks you’ve assigned to each task, and – voila! – you’ll know exactly how much time you’ll need to block off in that day’s calendar to help you emerge victorious over your to-do list.
Step 5: Prioritizing
Sometimes, dreams of victory notwithstanding, you simply won’t have enough time in your calendar to accomplish the day’s full to-do list. What to do then?
Simple. Prioritize which tasks need to happen most urgently. Fill the time you do have with those tasks. And then… reschedule the rest. Tofasta merubah… when it comes to productivity, less is truly more.
Step 6: Daily Updates
Now that you’ve put so much effort into creating your to-do list, you might be tempted to leave it alone. But if you want all your hard work to pay off, you need to do a bit of maintenance. You need to update your to-do list every day.
Online apps like Smartsheet, Asana or Todoist might prove extremely helpful. Not a tech fan? Print out your app’s pages and fill them in by hand.
Different as it might feel, a good project management app can do wonders for your productivity.
That’s all, folks. Six simple steps to a productivity-purveying to-do list.
But Avraham, why on earth should I waste my time curating such a to-do list? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
A well-maintained to-do list is an investment. Put in the necessary few minutes, and you’ll get back many hours of increased productivity.
Have a productive and successful week,
P.S. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your comments, cheers, jeers or just to say hi and introduce yourself.
Avraham Lewis, guides leaders of mosdos Torah to exceed their fundraising expectations and magnify their impact on Klal Yisrael.