You are overwhelmed with work. There’s so much work that just organizing the tasks you’re responsible for is a whole other job on top of the one you’ve been hired for. It’s gotten so bad that your to-do lists have to-do lists
We hear you, and we’re here to help. (Need a better to-do list? Try our free to-do list excel template!)
Not everyone loves to-do lists, as Forbes contributor, Kevin Kruse, writes in his article “Millionaires Don’t Use To-Do Lists,” but not everyone has the luxury of being rich. If you’re not wealthy, you may want to read on.
The first thing you got to do is manage those errant to-do lists or else something is sure to fall through the cracks. But how? You’ve tried various methods, or maybe you’ve just posted them all over your work station in hopes that at night some gremlins will come in and set it all straight for you.
There are more practical ways to accomplish the big job of wrangling all those to-do lists so you can actually do what’s on them and deliver your project successfully. The to-do list exists for a purpose: to organize your tasks and their deadlines for completion. But if you keep adding to them then they’ve become a block to your productivity as opposed to facilitating your work.
If you want your to-do lists to help you get ahead of your work, here’s what to do.
Have One List
A list is only good if you can access it. If you’re putting them on your computer, your car, in your back pocket, on the bathroom mirror at home, you may have captured all the tasks you’re responsible for but will never have a clear idea of what they are because they’re not at hand.
Get those many lists into one all-encompassing list, then put the tasks on it in some kind of logical order that makes sense to you and the job. You’ll find just completing this simple procedure will make you feel less stressed out about what needs to be done because you’ll know what that is.
Have Objectives and Deadlines
The next step is to think about each of those individual tasks on your one list and what the timeframe for completion is for each of them. What are your targets and deadlines? If you don’t know, find out: talk to your sponsors and have them detail the top-five items they need and when. Write them down and have your sponsor prioritize them so you can tell which are most critical to the project.
Have Clear Priorities
Get your list digitalized. Now you can have access to it from any online connection and you’ll be able to easily edit it as the list will change throughout the lifecycle of your project. Once that is done you can go about setting clear priorities.
Prioritize based on the targets and dates sent, the amount of work each task on the list will take, the complexity that will be involved to finish the task, how important that task is and the deadline for completion. Only once you have determined this can you move on to your next step.
Have a Defined Critical Path
Sometimes a task is never done. You run out of time or something else comes up that takes precedent. It happens in most every project. That doesn’t mean you can neglect anything on your to-do list. This is where a critical path becomes, well, critical.
You have to start by asking yourself whether if this or that task can be a week late or will that block the progress of the overall project? If you answer, Yes, then you know this individual task is part of your critical path to the successful completion of your project. This task is of a higher priority than the others.
Have a Way to Manage Your List
The way to manage these tasks you’ve now prioritized and set on a critical path is by coming up with completion dates for each of them. But choose those dates wisely and make them firm, because you have to meet them. On the plus side, you can have soft deadlines for noncritical tasks.
The best thing is that as you work your way through the lifecycle of the project and complete a task you can then strike it from you list. Few things feel better. Of course, when a new task arises you can decide whether or not it’s critical and then add it accordingly, with a target date.
That’s the basic underlying rule of to-do lists: keep them relevant and timely. These are living documents that will be returned to again and again throughout the planning, monitoring and reporting of the entire project, so they have to be accurate. Do that and you’re on your way.
For more help in managing your to-do list, and not confusing it with a project plan, watch the short tutorial video below featuring Jennifer Bridges, PMP.
Once you’re got a good to-do list you’ll want to finish those tasks up quickly and efficiently, which is where ProjectManager.com comes in. This online software has all the tools you’ll need to do your work and see its progress in real-time. Try it out free in this 30-day trial.