This is the first post in a new series I'm calling "Works for Me Wednesdays." On most Wednesdays, I'll share tips, products, and services that work to make my life easier, entertaining, or somehow better. I'll start with my to do list strategy.
As I've gotten older I have more things to do and less ability to remember them. Gone are the days when I made to do lists solely for the joy of crossing things off them. Now I need to do lists because otherwise I'd forget what I need to do.
Once I started to actually depend on my to do lists, I realized I needed a better way to organize them. What has been working for me at my job is making my to do list with sticky notes and a file folder.
When I get a new task assigned to me (usually after attending a meeting or receiving an email) I write the task on a sticky note. If there is a hard deadline I write that date on the note as well. Then, I put the note inside my to do file folder, which always sits on my desk when I'm working or lives next to my laptop in my backpack when I'm not.
Each morning, as I drink my coffee, I first review my schedule for the day. Knowing what meetings I have that day can sometimes influence task priorities. Also, knowing how booked my day is lets me know how much time I'll have to get tasks done.
Then, I open my to do folder and review what's there. I choose a few sticky notes to work on that day. Depending on the complexity of the tasks and the amount of time I have to work on them I usually choose 2-5 tasks. I close the folder and put the sticky notes for the chosen tasks on the outside of the folder. I keep the folder to the right of my workspace where it is always in sight to keep me on track.
If I complete a task I throw that note away. If I haven't completed a task by the end of the day, its note goes back inside the folder.
I like this approach because I don't lose track of even minor tasks; however, my daily to do list is always a manageable size. I have found that I go through periods where I'm adding more notes than I'm completing, then I'll have a streak where I'm getting so many things done it seems like I may completely empty the folder. (That never actually happens.)
The folder has another use besides keeping the sticky notes from slipping around in my bag. If I have a task that has paper associated with it (a form I need to fill out or something I need to take to a meeting) I keep those things in the folder as well.
I use my sticky note to do list for my job tasks and the occasional errand I may need to run during the day. At home, where my life is less structured, I use a combination of white board lists and alarms from an app on my phone. Honestly, I haven't mastered my home/personal to do lists as well as I have my work one, which is why I'm not quite ready to share that approach with you.
Do you have any to do list tips? Please share them in the comments.
RELATED POST: Organizing tips for parents (and other busy people)
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