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5 Practical Ways to Make Your To-Do List Work

5 Practical Ways to Make Your To-Do List Work

Your to-do list is the heart and mind of your daily work; it works like your personal assistant, or rather your own private Boss who tells what you should do and when you should do it. Without a written to-do list, you get stressed, you lose time, and you end up being unproductive and inefficient.

Therefore, to free up your brain, you have to make a clear and efficient to-do list. Think of it like your external brain, and start imagining how you can arrange it to make it as powerful as possible.

Find the right tool

The very first thing you have to do is to find the right tool to manage your to-do list. I highly recommend that you use an online task management application because they’re flexible, sharable, and they’ve already proven their efficiency in terms of productivity. Plus, most task management applications give you the opportunity to add content and due dates to your tasks, to delegate work, and to collaborate with your teammates.

Forget using post-its, whiteboards and paper to-do lists. You won’t be able to do anything efficiently with a to-do list written on a piece of paper.

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Organize and Prioritize

tasks list

    Once you’ve picked the right application for your to-do list, you need to organize your tasks. Your to-do list should be easy and practical to use.

    To get organized, you should first make sure that you only add the tasks that you’re actually going to work on in a reasonable amount of time. So if something you’re working on is complex, you should break it down into smaller tasks.

    Secondly, you need to prioritize your tasks. Always put the most important tasks at the top of your list. Prioritizing your tasks helps you focus on the most urgent/important things you have to get done.

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    Add content

    task content

      After you create a task, you’ll need to enrich it by adding content so that when you’re ready, you’ll have all the resources you need to start working. Think of it like cooking: you first need to gather and prepare all the ingredients before you turn the oven on, right?!

      A task’s content can be anything you need, like a document, a note, an email, a link, a description or a list of subtasks. It’s all about adding everything you need to complete your work.

      Don’t forget that your to-do list is your personal assistant, and that the role of a personal assistant is to give you a maximum amount of information so you can do whatever it is you have to do easily.

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      Besides, adding content to your to-do list helps you focus on your work so your workflow can be easily managed.

      Keep it short

      If you have too many tasks on your to-do list, you might feel overwhelmed before you even get started. To be efficient, your to-do list needs to be doable. In other words, it needs to be short so that you’re subconsciously motivated to start working.

      If your to-do list is too long, move your tasks to another day or week. The objective is to have a clear picture on what you have to do, and can do, today. Tomorrow is another day, and you don’t need to have those tasks in today’s field of vision.

      Some people say to keep your to-do list under 20 tasks, and others say no more than 3. It really isn’t a matter of numbers, but rather the nature of your tasks. Some things take a few minutes to get done, others hours. You need to feel comfortable with the size of your to-do list and be able to tell yourself, “I can definitely get all of this done today”.

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      Make it collaborative

      The more we are, the merrier we will be, right? The same theory works with your to-do list.  If you keep it to yourself, you’ll have a harder time accomplishing your tasks.

      Therefore, when you’re choosing a task management app, you should make sure it’s collaborative. That way, you’ll be able to share ideas and get in sync with your coworkers. The idea is to get your teammates involved in your tasks and accomplish your work faster. If every member of your team is on the same page and using the the same information, your to-do list will work almost all by itself.

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      Last Updated on March 30, 2020

      What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

      What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

      If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

      So, what to do in free time?

      Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

      Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

      1. Reading Files

      Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

      Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

      2. Clear out Inbox

      Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

      If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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      3. Phone Calls

      Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

      Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

      4. Make Money

      This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

      If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

      5. File

      No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

      But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

      Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

      6. Network

      Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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      7. Clear out Feeds

      If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

      8. Goal Time

      Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

      If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

      Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

      9. Update Finances

      Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

      Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

      10. Brainstorm Ideas

      Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

      11. Clear off Desk

      Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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      Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

      12. Exercise

      Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

      13. Take a Walk

      This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

      It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

      14. Follow up

      Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

      When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

      15. Meditate

      You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

      Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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      16. Research

      This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

      If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

      17. Outline

      Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

      18. Get Prepped

      Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

      You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

      19. Be Early

      Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

      Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

      20. Log

      If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

      Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

      More Inspirations on What To Do During Free Time

      Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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