A to-do list template is your first defense against the chaos of mounting tasks. It’s a way to take that onslaught of work and organize it, prioritize it and see at-a-glance when each individual assignment is due. This is how you start to manage workflow and create the beginnings of a schedule to help get things done on time.
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What Is a To-Do List?
The to-do list is a tool to help you organize. It collects anything you are responsible for and captures those tasks in one place. The list must be thorough. Every little thing must be represented, and only after you’ve exhausted all the tasks can you then begin to prioritize them, add due dates and begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
It feels to some that the to-do list has been around as long as the wheel. People have been jotting down stuff on scraps of paper since there’s been paper. That’s because there’s always something to do.
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That something has only gotten more complex and dense as time has gone on. From finding food and shelter, it’s evolved into a roadmap of many points to offer us direction in our increasingly hectic day.
Some tasks on your to-do list will show themselves not as important as others, so you can schedule your time more effectively. Others will stand out as critical. When you have a deadline attached to these important tasks, you can work backwards from that date to schedule your time wisely and accomplish what needs to be done.
Do To-Do Lists Work?
The simple answer as to whether a to-do list is effective is it depends. Mostly, it depends on if you use them. Just collecting and not acting is procrastinating. So, a to-do list is only as good as the person using it.
That said, there is some clinical data that backs up the to-do list as an effective organizational tool. Psychologist and author Dr. David Cohen believes to-do lists are psychologically helpful, if not the solution to the problem. That problem, of course, can only be resolved by executing the tasks on that to-do list successfully.
However, Dr. Cohen says to-do lists accomplish three major steps that lead one closer to acting on those tasks. Firstly, a to-do list helps to lower the level of anxiety that one feels when there’s a lot of work piling up. A to-do list also provides a much-needed structure to that work, which makes it more manageable. Finally, he says, at the end of the day, they show us that we’ve in fact accomplished something.
Why You Need a To-Do List Template
If you still need convincing about the value of using a to-do list, just look at your day. There’s a lot to do there, right? Whether you’re working or just living your life, there are tasks that need completion, bills that need to be paid, places you have to be, people you need to meet. The list can feel endless, which is why it’s best to have it physically written down, or better yet, collected in a template, so you can see the full picture.
It should be clear now that a to-do list template will make you more organized. That means your work is more manageable, which means it’s more likely to get done. You have an outline to ground your actions, and it feels good to cross those to-do line items off your list.
Being organized also means that you feel a sense of progress, which gives you a sense of moving forward rather than just attacking whatever task comes at you in the moment. This will do wonders in terms of motivating you and keeping you from feeling overwhelmed. That’s because a to-do list is really the beginnings of a plan. Studies show the more time you spend planning, the more time you save when executing it.
Another benefit of the to-do list is that it helps your memory. That’s because no matter how good your memory might be, it’s never going to hold all the information you need to remember.
An average person can remember about seven items of information for 30 seconds, so if there are more than seven items you need to recall, you better get a to-do list.
By putting something in a to-do list you have permission to forget about it, but, ironically, you are more likely to retain that information after you write it down. And even if you don’t recall what it was you put on the to-do list, it’s there for you to access at anytime.
To-do lists also help with productivity. When you prioritize, you’re able to see the wheat from the chaff and concentrate on those tasks that are critical, without wasting your time on the ones that are trivial. A Harvard Business Review study shows that 90 percent of managers waste time because of poor time management. Time can be better managed through to-do lists, among other things.
Also, a to-do list can help you focus. Distractions are distracting and that keeps productivity at bay. Having a to-do list to reference is like an anchor to keep you on task. You can dive deeply into your work and know that your to-do list is at hand when you need to see where you are in the process.
Finally, a to-do list is also a motivational tool. They clarify your goals and provide a sense of accomplishment as you cross each item off the list. That builds motivation and has a cumulative effect.
How to Use a To-Do List Template
Once you’ve downloaded your to-do template, follow these simple steps to reap its benefits:
- On the left-hand side of the document is a column titled “My Tasks.” This is where you’ll collect your tasks. Keep it simple. You only want to write a few descriptive words that sum up the work.
- Next you want to determine the duration of the task. That means, how long will it take? This column is the “Start Date,” which is when you begin the work.
- The column after that is the “Due Date,” which is when you have to have the work completed. Having these two point creates between them the duration, a crucial piece of information to help you plan your work accordingly.
- The next column is the “Percent Completed.” This gives you a quick idea of your progress through the work and if you’re on schedule or going off track. In order to update percentage complete, click the cell, and you’ll see an arrow appear to the right. Click that arrow and update the percentage complete. When you set it to 100%, it will automatically be marked as “Done.”
- Finally, you have a column in which to collect any notes. While the task title should be brief, these notes can be more detailed and contain specific directions or issues that might arise as you work.
You can add a new row if you need to add another task.
The arrows at the top of the columns allow you to filter your tasks based on the data in the column (i.e., show me only tasks marked “done”).
That’s it. Using a to-do list template is easy and helpful. Once you have filled in the title and dates, you’re on your way.
Importing Your To-Do List into ProjectManager.com
To take your to-do list template to the next level, you’ll want to upload it to ProjectManager.com, where it becomes integrated with online Gantt charts, a real-time dashboard and other tools.
By importing the Excel spreadsheet into ProjectManager.com, all the information on your to-do list is automatically added to the Gantt chart, which populates those tasks to its timeline. There you can link dependent tasks and edit due dates as needed.
Now your to-do list is super-sized. You can use it as a collaborative platform to work with others on your team, automate notifications to help remind you of impending deadlines and attach documents, links and other media directly to the tasks.
A to-do list is only a tool, and it’s important to learn how to best use a tool. On the ProjectManager.com blog there is a wealth of resources to help, from blog posts to tutorial videos. Here are a few that will help you use your to-do list template.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software. Features include a real-time dashboard that gives you the most accurate view of the progress of your project. But more than a mere monitoring system, our dashboard makes generating targeted reports easy and sharing them simply, either online or in print.
Learn how to schedule more efficiently with online Gantt charts that visualize the project timeline and allow for easy changes as you adjust resources. There are also tools for workload management, communications and more.
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