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10 Ways to love your list


It’s February. That special time of year when our resolutions are a distant memory, the decorations have all been packed up, and we’re back in the thick of things after a winter break. We’re getting busier and busier, and things are piling up. Whilst love may well be in the air for many towards the middle of the month, you may also find yourself looking at your to-do list and detesting it. But a list can be invaluable, so long as you treat it right.

Here are 10 ways to love your list, and turn it from a never-ending source of demands into a way of taking charge of your valuable time:

1. Know what matters most

When there are so many demands on us, it’s important to focus on the things that are going to have the biggest impact. Try explaining your role in terms of the four or five key areas that you do. This will help you make sure you’re working on the things that will have impact.

Woman looking at papers

2. Activate your list

Make sure your to do list is a list of actions rather than the output you’re working towards. Rather than listing the topic ‘project management’, be specific about the task ‘update project plan’. Using a verb at the start of each item on the list will help you do this.

3. Love letting go

Get into a routine of writing your list at the end of the day. Use it as a way to distinguish the end of your working day and the start of your evening or relaxation time. This allows you to give your brain a break, and not try to keep all of those plates spinning overnight!

4. Begin again with fresh eyes

Start each day by adding any new tasks to your list, then revisit the priorities. Things change, so need to work out what’s most important that day.

woman with coffee and knees up

5. Let your list take the weight

If you get interrupted with another request (and it’s going to take longer than 5 minutes), add it to the list and reprioritise it amongst the other tasks on your list. This allows you to focus on the one thing in front of you, knowing the rest won’t be forgotten or missed.

6. Protect your priorities

Sometimes we’re not able to help a colleague at the time they want us to. It is ok to say no. When your list shows that you don’t have room for other tasks if you’re to get your top priority completed, it’s legitimate for you to say no to a request for help that would knock you off course. If it’s difficult to say no, can you say ‘yes, and…’ e.g. I can help tomorrow afternoon, once I’ve submitted this report.

7. Know when it’s time to split

Ever had something languish at the bottom of your list for weeks…months…years?! If it matters, make it your priority and get it ticked off your list. If not, can you delegate it? Do it? Or free yourself from it entirely, and stop writing it down (dump it)?

8. One love, one heart, let’s get together and keep it all on one list

Have one list. All in one place. Personal and professional. When it comes to prioritising, if the most urgent and important thing you need to do that day is buy your child a birthday card it should be top of your list. It’s also far easier to walk away from the list each night and relax, knowing that everything is in one place, not 20 different post-its and emails.

Notebooks and pens

9. Tick, don’t cross!

It can be tempting to scribble it out so that you don’t have to think about that report that you’ve finally sent off. But that means that you aren’t able to look back and see what you achieved that day/week. Try ticking, it’s a positive affirmation of what you’ve achieved, and means you can review your achievements over time. If that really doesn’t do it for you, cross out in a yellow pen, so you can still read what’s underneath.

10. Whatever works for you

If you prefer tech to paper, there are lots of different platforms that can help you maintain your list. Practice prioritising your list each day and once you’ve got into that habit, experiment with the different formats (Outlook tasks, Google tasks, Trello, pen and paper)

Ok. Turns out there are 11 ways to love your list…

11. Keep it visible (nobody puts baby the list in the corner)

Keep your list in view. This keeps it front of mind, makes it easier for you to keep track of your day, especially if you’re interrupted.

Person writing in notebook next to laptop

What’s next?

Hopefully these quick fire tips have given you some food for thought on managing your competing priorities. If you’re keen to take a more in depth look at how to improve your time management skills take a look at the Managing Multiple Priorities programme.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss bringing the training in-house to your team or organisation. Call to speak to one of our consultants on +44(0)20 7978 1516 or contact us online.

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Rachel Whittle

About Rachel Whittle

Rachel specialises in management development and personal effectiveness. Rachel has over 10 years’ experience in the charity sector. Before joining =mc, she specialised in direct marketing and was a...