How to Create a More Efficient To-Do List
I’m all about not wasting time. Although I do tend to get off track from time to time, I try my best to have a plan for the week that will help me accomplish what needs to be done to move me forward to reaching my goals.
I am a follower of the Getting Things Done time management system by David Allen. I have put into practice principles that help me to get more done in an efficient way.
One of the principles is to sort your to-do list by context. By that I mean creating categories that your tasks fit in depending on where you are or what you are doing at any given time.
For example, my contexts are computer, phone, home, errands, and blogging. When I am on my computer, I pull out my to-do list for tasks that need to be done on the computer. I can look at that list and not be distracted by tasks that require me to be on the phone, doing things around the house, or running errands.
This keeps me from having to re-sort in my mind what tasks I need to do while I’m at the computer. It also allows me to take care of many tasks at once.
Say my computer list has action items such as email Suzie about next month’s meeting, order a new wreath for my front door, create files for a project, and research washers and dryers. When I’m at my computer I can work on these tasks one right after the other and get them done.
The alternative is to have one big to-do list. This is inefficient in that your mind has to mentally process it every time you look at it to decide what you can do at the moment given where you are.
So, how do you go about creating this more efficient to-do list?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Decide what contexts are most beneficial to you. These may change from week to week depending on the kind of work you do or projects you are trying to tackle. However, they most likely will remain somewhat constant once you decide the kind of work you are truly doing. Some of the more common contexts are phone, computer, errands, at office, home, anywhere, agendas (for people and meetings), and read/review.
- Set up your to-do list so you can see your contexts at a glance. You can see how I set up mine here. I use a week-on-two-pages spread to help me see all my lists at one time. Because I have 5 main contexts and 7 spaces to list them, I give computer and home 2 spaces since I tend to have more tasks in those areas.
- If you are a digital person, try these apps to help manage your lists. Evernote, Wunderlist, Any.do, and Nozbe are all great tools that will let you set up to-do lists by context.
- Work with your new to-do list system for a couple of weeks and adjust as needed to make it work for you. Trying any new system is an exercise in trial and error. It may take you a couple of weeks before you figure out what works for you.
How to you organize your to-do list? Comment below and share your thoughts.