A to do list can be a friend or a foe. For me a to do list is a huge friend. Faby has a different approach on how to manage her tasks. My love for a to do list focuses on one main point. I need my to do list to be well organised. For this, I use a routine to make sure I am making the most out of it. Why a routine? To make sure that my to do list is my best friend.
I wrote this post because I had some interesting discussion with some of our clients. With them we discussed the idea of “being organised”. The key element of a to do list, was to help them cope with the many roles they cover. They are business savvy women, often wives and sometimes mums. Many see a to do list as an element of complexity. I am here today to give you a different insight. These are my 4 powerful routines to fuel my days and make my best ally of my to do list.
To do list morning routine
Every morning, the first working routine is about my to do list. This is one of the most important thing I do. The goal is to refresh, every morning, what’s important for me. This is the routine most people skip. They think that they can cope with their to do list as they go. The reality is that without this routine, your to do list will grow without order. You will soon find out that your to do list has become your worst nightmare, and you will stop relying on it.
This morning ritual will take 10-20 minutes the first times you do it. Right now I need a couple of minutes every morning to go through it. The key element, and I will explain this in a while, is to ruthless in deciding what’s important. We clog our to do list by avoiding to remove something from it. This makes the to do list unmanageable.
Four parts of my to do list: New, Today, Upcoming and Later
I open asana and I go through three lists:
The new tasks in my to do list are those assigned to me from other members of my team. They can also be tasks that gets a reminder. I want to decide when to work on them. If they take me less than two minutes, I do there and then. Alternatively, if they need more of my time I decide if I want to do them today or not. Also, if they are important and I must have them visible, even if I don’t plan to work on them today, I mark them as upcoming. In every other case I give them a due date and I mark them to do at a later stage.
I then focus on all the tasks I want to complete today. I want to make sure that I have between three and six of them. If I have more, I will move the less important to the upcoming ones. You want your tasks to be something you can work at most in of a couple of hours. If they are longer, you should split them in more than one tasks in your to do list. Once there are no more tasks in my “New” to do list, and few in my “today”, I focus on the upcoming ones. As for the ones in today, I want a handful of tasks to be upcoming. I can have ten of them, but if I can assign a due date and move them in the “later” I do it.
The goal is to have clear in mind which tasks I need to work on today, without having an endless to do list. keep it short, so you can prioritise them with ease. Remember that you are not deleting any task, you are deferring them if they are not important.
My emails are tasks in my to do list, and as such I treat them
Few times each day I work on my emails. Because Faby and I share the same email address, this is something that benefits the both of us. I browse the emails we received and I move them in one of three buckets:
- for Faby
- for Carlo
- no response needed (archived/trashed)
And for every email that needs a response I create a task in asana. I use the link to the email for ease of use and I add it to my (or Faby’s tasks). If they are mine, I divide them in four groups:
- Urgent and Important
- Urgent but Not Important
- Not Urgent but Important
- Not Urgent and Not Important
As you can imagine, this already gives me a sign of their priority. These reminders end up in the same to do list with every other task. I spend few more minutes to organise them in Today, Upcoming or Later.
Why do I treat email as tasks? Because I like to keep track of everything I do in one single place. For us it is asana, and by keeping track of the emails that need my attention in there and not in my inbox make my life easier.
My weekly reviews of goals and priorities
Once a week, I take some time to make sure that my day to day to do list is going in the same direction of my broader goals. I check all my projects in asana and I make sure that I am not forgetting anything. Then I look at emails I need to reply to and I re-prioritise them in case of need. And I also make sure that every time a goal is not complete, I am still going in the right direction.
This weekly routine strengthens my overview of everything I do. Even if I divide my time amongst many projects, companies or different parts of my life, I can rely on my to do list. The to do list is not a daily reminder of what I am working on. The to do list is my tool to make sure I work smarter towards my goals, not harder. In time I have managed to achieve a lot by working the same hours of many other people. I managed to do it because I learned to say “No” to a lot of things that would distract me from what’s important. I am proud of it.
Now, with these 4 simple routines, I promise you can do as I do. Become more organised and more productive by knowing on what to focus on, you will love your life! I need to go now, the next task in my to do list is to spend some quality time with my son!