There was an interesting blog post on The 99 % about a surprisingly simple productivity tool: an everyday stack of Post-Its.
The author, Mark McGuiness, a coach for artists and creative professionals, struggled for a long time with managing his many daily priorities and commitments. No matter how hard he tried to cross items off his to-do list, his list always seemed to be longer at the end of the day than at the beginning.
His personal effectiveness increased when he started employing a very straightforward strategy: he fits his to-do list for today and today only on a single 3”x3” Post-It. Everything else that isn’t urgent and important goes on the list for tomorrow.
One of my most valuable productivity tools is a stack of Post-It notes. Not the smallest size, but the 3″ x 3″ squares. The top Post-It contains my to-do list for today, and today only. Because my day is a limited size, I figure it makes sense to limit the size of my to-do list. If I can’t fit the day’s tasks on the Post-It, I’m not likely to fit them into the day.
Though we all have our own methods for staying organized and managing projects, Mark’s Post-It approach is an excellent reminder that we need to be realistic about time management. Many of us are guilty of trying to fit a month’s worth of tasks into a single day, then becoming frustrated and discouraged when we fail to do the impossible. It is easy to get overwhelmed by a mile-long to-do list, so it is actually more productive to create a shorter, more reasonable daily agenda.
Whether you adopt Mark’s Post-It method, use an online project management system or keep a to-do list on your smart phone, keep these tips in mind to increase your personal effectiveness and accomplish more in a day:
1. Be realistic.
Before you add something to today’s task list, consider how much time it will take, how urgent it is and if you are actually going to get to it. If you know it’s due in two weeks and you won’t have time to look at it until Thursday, put it on the backburner and don’t add it to today’s list out of guilt.
Create some sort of ranking system for your to-do list items, arranging them based on importance and urgency. Highlight top priorities and tackle those first instead of procrastinating with less immediate items.
3. Be flexible.
Even with the best planning, there will always be days where you need to add urgent items to your agenda and remove others. Shift priorities as necessary, and avoid overscheduling yourself when possible.
How do you keep your daily to-do list? How do you keep it manageable and productive? Do your employee development courses offer organizing tips?
For more on productivity, check out EDSI’s Increasing Personal Effectiveness course.