Get Productive: 5 Simple Steps to To Do List Mastery

To Do List

Although working from home has its benefits (no commute, for one), it also has pitfalls. I’m coaching an entrepreneur who’s getting a new business off the ground. She’s pregnant, so she’s uncomfortable with morning sickness which she says is more like “all day sickness”, and is coping with a toddler as well.

Before we started working together, Sylvia was frazzled. Her To Do List was getting longer. For various reasons, she couldn’t put off the launch of her business. She had to find a way to manage everything that needed to be done.

The following simple steps have helped her to feel in charge again.

1. Morning Review: what’s today’s headline act?

This process, creating a Daily Log, has helped me, so I recommended the process to Sylvia:

As soon as I hit my computer each morning, I create a new Daily Log note in my Journal notebook in Evernote. Whenever I think of it — every hour or so — I note the time, and what I’ve been doing.

Sylvia picked ONE task per day, which absolutely had to be done. That task was her “headline act”. If the task looked as if it would take longer than half an hour, she chunked it down, so that it had a number of sub-tasks. She could do these easily, working around whatever else was happening. (Taking little Ben to day care, errands, phone calls, etc.)

On the other hand, if she needed to attend a meeting, and that was her headline act, she created a solid block of time. For example, if the meeting was scheduled for 11 AM, with 30 minutes traveling time, she blocked off the entire morning, and lunch, for the meeting.

By giving herself lots of time, Sylvia could attend meetings feeling calm and relaxed. She could also focus on the meeting’s agenda. (See #4.)

2. Clear your email’s Inbox (and close it)

If a response will take fewer than two minutes, respond. Otherwise, turn each message into a task and add it to your calendar program.

Can someone else handle the query? Forward the message to them.

You’ll have some messages which don’t need a response. Add these to a “Read Later” folder.

Once you’ve handled your messages, close your email client.

Sylvia found that checking her email twice a day was enough. Without the distraction, she got more done.

3. Burn out the undergrowth (eliminate or delegate)

To Do Lists always grow. Trim them back every day if you can. Can you eliminate or delegate tasks? Do it.

4. Always have an agenda

Your headline act is your agenda for the day. Everything you do should have agenda, or goal. Glue a little sticky note onto your computer monitor: “Why am I doing this?” Create another note to stick onto your car’s dashboard.

The stickies will remind you that you only need to do something if you have a reason for doing it. This eliminates lots of time-wasting activities.

For example, if someone calls you to chat in the middle of your work day, you’ll be reminded that there’s no agenda, so you can call them later.

5. Sunset Review: your DONE list

Review what you’ve done at the close of the business day. Reschedule anything you need to reschedule.

Be proud of today’s achievements. Tomorrow is another day.

Sylvia’s found these five steps useful; try them.

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Author: Angela Booth

Copywriter Angela Booth's clients tell her she performs "word magic." Whether she's writing advertising materials, Web content, or ghostwriting for her clients, she's committed to helping them to achieve results, fast. Author of one of the first books about online business, Making The Internet Work For Your Business, Angela's written many business books which have been published by major publishers. She's an enthusiastic self-publisher and writing teacher.