Everyone battles time. There just doesn’t seem to be enough of it. We have so much to do at work and at home that our minds are in a permanent state of clutter, and forgetfulness is a common problem, even among the young. This is where the to-do list comes in. It’s a list of tasks that need to be accomplished within a given time frame. A to-do list is the first step to organising your life – office, home and even yourself. Time management experts swear by its effectiveness. It makes you personally productive and helps you achieve professional goals in a more systematic manner. It also helps you feel more purposeful. “When I decide what I want to achieve for the day, I list the things that need to be done for me to get there,” says software professional Megha Desai. “If I tick off everything on the list by the end of the day, then it’s clear to me that I’ve achieved what I set out to. It’s a great feeling.”
Here’s how to get organised.
How to-do lists work
The function of a to-do list is to keep you focused, says life coach, author and motivational speaker Priya Kumar. “Make a list of tasks for the day, complete with deadlines. That will help you prioritise your tasks.” Working on your to-do list, you’ll have your tasks sorted and staring right at you. This will keep you organised in your life and even in your mind.
Businesswoman Namrata Verma agrees. Her home and office both run with clockwork precision. Her secret: The to-do list. “I discovered its benefits 15 years ago and since then I’ve been sitting down every night to make a list of things to be done over the next two days,” she says. “As I finish each task, I feel motivated and able to complete even more tasks.”
Write the lists
Traditionally, a to-do list is written on a piece of paper. But now people are using BlackBerries and mobile notes. Go with whatever you feel comfortable with. But always have your list handy. There are different kinds of to-do lists, says corporate guru author of The Corporate Chanakya, Radhakrishnan Pillai.
Make separate lists for home and for work – and one for personal and professional long term goals (for example: In one year I will finish the book I am writing, I will be more disciplined, I will try to be more patient). You should have a daily to-do list, a weekly to-do list and then there is your goals sheet, says Priya Kumar. Here’s how to do it: write down your professional goals. Then break them down into weekly achievements and create your weekly to-do list. Then break that down and make a daily to-do list. Do the same with your home tasks.
“But you have to review your weekly to-do list and your goals sheet every day to make changes if there are any,” adds Kumar. “New developments and ideas occur all the time, and your weekly list and goals sheet need to be in sync with them. The daily to-do list, however, needs to be executed with full dedication.”
Climb the ladder of success
Experts feel that a to-do list goes a long way in creating career growth. “Only after you are able to successfully complete given tasks within deadlines and are able to look beyond them and strategise, will you climb the ladder. It all starts with a to-do list,” says Radhakrishnan Pillai, author of The Corporate Chanakya.
Life coach Priya Kumar adds that you must always remember that at work you are paid for the work you finish and deliver, not for work you start and delay. “My own job has four functions,” she says. “I am the CEO of my company, I am a motivational speaker, I am an author and I am a columnist. Often, people are amazed by how I handle all these roles. The to-do list is a great organising tool. Before I start my day, I pen down in sequence what needs to be done to have all my roles functioning smoothly. Usually the list rolls out into a couple of pages. I then strike off all the work I can delegate to others, and send them lists along with deadlines. After that, I get on to my own tasks.”
She adds: “This means that, even when I assign work to others, I have a copy of their agenda. There are times when I am not able to finish my to-do list. But if I get the top five tasks out of the way, I am safe with the pending work. People who don’t make to-do lists do get work done, but chances are that they miss something important that actually adds value to their work.”
Dos and don’ts of a to-do list
Keep the list handy – anywhere you can access it easily.
Look at it three times. In the morning to check what needs to be done; in the afternoon, to see what’s been accomplished and to remind yourself of what’s left; and at night, to assess the day’s work, to tick off what was done, and make a list for tomorrow
Prioritise tasks on your to-do list in order of importance and urgency.
Keep the list snappy. If you have to clean a room, break the task down to clean carpet, dust shelves, etc.
Be reasonable. Don’t overcrowd the list with tasks. If you become too ambitious, you may not be able to achieve what you set out to do, and that is demotivating.
Don’t let it rule your life
The one big negative of the to-do list is that it can become tyrannical. You could get into the habit of living your life by it. “This leaves no scope for sudden developments,” says Rohini Singh, author of The Only Way Out is Within. For example, if your list says: ‘meeting with client tomorrow’, but you suddenly have to submit a report in two days, postpone the meeting. Your priorities have changed.
There’s also the stress that comes with not being able to complete all the tasks on the list. “Suppose you have six tasks for today,” says Radhakrishnan Pillai. “You may not be able to complete them all, but by the next day, five more tasks have been added. This could stress you out, but remember: it’s been said that only God can complete his to-do list.” Be practical. Some tasks can go down the priority list to be done later. Meanwhile, finish the ones that are most important.
All tasks should be evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent. Tasks in unimportant/not urgent can be postponed, tasks in important/urgent should be completed immediately and personally. Tasks that are unimportant/urgent can be delegated and tasks in important/not urgent can be given a deadline and done personally. This method is said to have been used by late US President Dwight D Eisenhower. Also, don’t spend more time making your to-do list than actually completing a task. The list is just a map, not the destination. You need to take the path to actually get to your destination. Singh, an erstwhile list fan, now believes in just being spontaneous. “I don’t keep a to-do list any more,” she says. “It constrains me.”
Mobile apps To get your life in order and on track
by Pranav Dixit
Price: $ 9.99
Do you need a marker and whiteboard to organise your thoughts? Take this to the next level. Install iThoughts, a mind-mapping tool that lets you visually organise your thoughts, ideas and information. It packs a number of features and has a well-designed user interface. There’s an HD version as well.
Price: $ 6.99
2Do is hands down the best to-do list app ever. The main interface is broken into tabs – one for all tasks, one for tasks due today, and others for customised calendars (work, school, home etc.): it all comes together brilliantly. You can even attach images to tasks!
From notes to ideas to snapshots to recordings, put it all into Evernote and watch as it instantly synchronises from your iPhone to your Mac or Windows desktop. Also available for Android and BlackBerry devices.
Springpad adds some excellent features to mobile notetaking: write a memo, take a snapshot or scan a barcode of any item to identify later. It’s your to-do list, diary, calendar and notebook all rolled into one. Available for Android and BlackBerry devices.
*Remember The Milk Pro
Price: $ 25/year
What good is a to-do list that is locked to only one device? Take your to-do list everywhere with Remember The Milk, a feature-packed app that seamlessly syncs your to-do lists across all things Apple, including on the Web!
*Taskos To Do list
Adding and prioritising tasks is a snap and the best part is the in-built voice recognition: tell your phone what you want to do and watch the words appear on the screen! It also syncs your tasks to your Gmail Tasks.
This isn’t a full-featured mobile office suite but if you need to quickly edit a Word file or view an Excel spreadsheet, it works well. You can also take a photo of printed text using your phone camera and instantly convert it into editable text!
Price: $ 6.99
With SlideScreen, you get a summary of data from text messages, phone calls, GMail, your calendar, Google Reader, stock market data, Twitter and Facebook right on your phone screen to make sure you’re up to date at a glance.
Jorte is a scheduler and to-do list that syncs seamlessly with Google Calender. Its three home screen widgets allow you to view a to-do list or a calender with a swipe of the finger.
Dropbox gives you 2GB worth of space, free, into which you can dump whatever you want and access it from your phone, Tablet and browser! Also available for iOS and BlackBerry devices.
Lister allows you to manage multiple to-do lists at once. You can create to-do list items without ever entering a BlackBerry menu and also add due dates and reminders for any item. Built-in sharing support allows you to mail your lists to friends – readable whether they use Lister or not!
Price: $ 6.99
Turn your BlackBerry homescreen into your organiser! Display lists, appointments, tasks and reminders on the homescreen in any font and colour you want. You can even choose your own background.
myTasks allows you to sort your tasks into projects. The projects themselves can have projects within them. Store voice and text notes in your tasks to organise your progress on the tasks, all within an attractive user interface.
*Memorop -Personal Relationship Manager and Recall App
Ever met someone but can’t remember their name a few days later? Worry not, Memorop is a personal relationship manager for new people you meet. Once you meet someone, simply save their name with a few descriptive keywords (“hot babe from Hard Rock Café.” Or anything else you want) to look them up any time.
*GroceryList Plus Email
Price: $ 4.99
Shopping’s boring, right? With GroceryList Plus Email, you can mail your shopping list directly onto your phone. The app even has a calculator to provide you with an estimate of how much you’ll spend based on typical prices of the items you are purchasing!
-From HT Brunch, June 6
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