What is the difference between someone who always manages to get things done and another person whose life is a conglomeration of unfinished projects? In most cases it is a matter of organization. The person who regularly gets things done tends to be a person who can organize while someone else who struggles to keep up tends to lack organization.
This is not to say that those who do not organize are a lost cause. Organization is a skill that can be learned by anyone to some degree. A good way to do so is to start with a simple to-do list. If you can learn how to create an effective list, and actually check things off the list as you do them, you can master the basics of organization. Below are some tips for creating effective to-do lists to get you started.
1. Prioritize the Tasks Needing Attention
The whole point of the to-do list is to write down all the tasks that you need to complete. For your first list, just write them all down in the order you think of them. Once you are sure your list is either complete or large enough for now, go back and look at all the items again. This is the point when you want to prioritize your tasks according to whatever criteria you deem necessary.
Some prioritize according to importance while others want to get the hardest or most time-consuming tasks completed first. Just figure out what your priorities are and reorganize your tasks accordingly.
2. Estimate the Time for Each Task
It is helpful to assign estimated times to your tasks while you prioritize. Determining the time makes it easier to schedule your tasks realistically. For example, if you estimate it will take 4 to 5 hours to clean out the garage, there is no point in trying to schedule it on an evening when you only have two hours to work with. Give yourself enough time for each task so that you’re sure to complete it when scheduled. Otherwise, you might be discouraged and ready to give up when things do not get done.
3. Pair Certain Tasks Together
More often than not, we have household tasks that can be paired together for greater efficiency. As an example, consider taking down the drapes and putting them through the washing machine. It will take at least 90 minutes to wash and dry them, so why not use that time to also clean the windows and sills? Combining the drapes and windows into the same task checks two things off your list without requiring any additional scheduling.
4. Regularly Re-evaluate Your List
If you are like most people, you will be adding new things to your to-do list as you are checking old things off. This is normal. So every once in a while it is helpful to step back and re-evaluate where you are. You may find that your priorities have changed based on things you have added to your list and other things you have completed. Re-evaluation puts things back into perspective and helps you to re-prioritize if necessary.
5. Reward Yourself for Completed Tasks
One of the best ways we have found to make a to-do list effective is to finalize each completed task with some sort of reward. The reward does not necessarily have to be something major, but it should be enjoyable enough to act as motivation. You might take the whole family out to your favorite restaurant after a day of cleaning and organizing the basement. Or perhaps you have that special DVD you’ve wanted to see for the longest time. Reward yourself with a viewing after you finish reorganizing the home office.
A to-do list is an excellent tool for organizing and completing tasks. If you can learn to create effective to-do lists, you can learn to organize just about anything.