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Make a To-do List You’ll Actually Want to Tackle

Make a To-do List You’ll Actually Want to Tackle

I’ve been a to-do lister for most of my life. In elementary school, my friend and I would make lists of all the things we wanted to accomplish during our sleep-overs. Just after college, I was so fed up with so many large parts of my life that I created a giant to-do list that read: “Get a new job. Get a new car. Go on vacation.” in big, bold letters, which hung over my bed, reminding me every day of my ultimate goals. They were all completed within five months. I like a good to-do list.

As a Director of Content & Social Media, my days are filled with what seems like hundreds of small, must-complete tasks, and at first, I had a hard time keeping all of them straight. Everything seemed like something that ought to be done that day, which made for one extremely long, and quite frankly, useless, to-do list. Out of necessity, I devised a to-do list system that has worked extremely well every since.

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nothing is so fatiguing 2

    Here are my best tips for creating a to-do list you’ll actually want to tackle:

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    Focus on the short-term.

    For most professionals, a to-do list that focuses on the next two weeks works best. Anything longer than that becomes more of a “goal” than a to-do item.

    Organize your list in a simple way.

    A long list of items is never going to get completed. Mine is divided into very literal sections: Today, Tomorrow, This Week, and Next Week. It’s easy to understand, and easy to update.

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    Use a computer-based list.

    I use Google Desktop to manage my to-do list. The application is constantly running so it’s always visible on the side of my monitor, and I can refer to it often to keep myself on track. Even though it’s more fun to literally cross items off your list on a piece of paper, a list on your computer is easier to update every day, moving tasks from Tomorrow to Today, and so on. Notepad, Google Docs, or even an open e-mail draft are all good options. (Ed: Alternatively use one of these computer based lists)

    Emphasize each specific task, rather than overall goals.

    Rather than stating the obvious, “Write blog posts for next week,” I get very specific with myself: “Write posts on 4 Resume Tips, 3 Phone Interview Don’ts, A Day in the Life of a Telecommuter.” Rather than seeing one big goal and becoming intimidated, I see three smaller goals that are already outlined and easily doable.

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    Archive items as you complete them.

    As any good to-do lister knows, the best part of the do-list is the crossing off of completed tasks. Such a sweet feeling of accomplishment!

    Update your entire list every day.

    Either at the end of your work day, or at the very beginning, rearrange your list by updating what needs to be done Today, Tomorrow, This Week, and Next Week. I prefer to update my list at the end of each day to take stock in my accomplishments and plot my workload for the following day. And without fail, every day I find myself wanting to tackle my to-do list!

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    Brie Weiler Reynolds

    Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs

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    Last Updated on September 30, 2020

    Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

    Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

    When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

    Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

    Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

    Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

    Effective vs Efficient

    Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

    A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

    Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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    The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

    Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

    When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

    Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

    Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

    The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

    If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

    When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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    • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
    • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
    • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

    Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

    Efficiency in Success and Productivity

    Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

    When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

    Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

    The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

    If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

    Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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    The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

    Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

    Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

    If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

    It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

    Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

    Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

    Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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    By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

    It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

    Bottom Line

    Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

    • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
    • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
    • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

    And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

    More on How to Improve Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
    [2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
    [3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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