‘Must Do’ Lists and Task Lists

There’s nothing new about the benefits of doing a ‘To Do’ list, and we all know we should do them, so why don’t they work and never become ‘Done’ lists? This article tackles this conundrum and will create a worthwhile time management tool for you.


You know you’ve got a busy week ahead, so you settle down to make that ever important ‘To Do’ list which will get you through all your tasks. Even writing it down makes you feel more in control and sometimes you’ve actually actioned them! It’s a good start though, and you have the whole day ahead so progress must surely be made? So why when you next review your list there are still over 20 items still to be actioned?

Interesting Fact!

Your productivity can increase by 25% or more by consistently working from a list.

Making Effective ‘To Do’ Lists

The mistake many make is that the ‘To Do’ list is used to record every task we need to do as opposed to just the important and/or urgent ones. This becomes overwhelming, and we give up. The following steps will help you get the most of your ‘To Do’ list and your day;-

1. At the end of the day – preferably before you go to bed, write your ‘To Do’ list. Then extract the most important FIVE tasks that must be done tomorrow. Your subconscious mind works while you are asleep so by doing it at this time of the day, you gain hours of preparation.

2. Remember – you are only allowed five items on the list. They must be the most important – so your list is converted to a ‘Must Do’ list.

3. How do I prioritise my tasks? These should be of ‘High Importance’ and/or ‘High Urgency’.

4. By writing your list down of only five tasks, you’ll be able to remember what you need to do the following day which will, in turn, save time, making you more efficient and effective. Your focus for the day will be extremely clear.

5. By doing this every day rather than out of necessity, this simple task will become a habit and will take only a few minutes to produce each night. Your productivity can increase by 25% or more by consistently working from a list.

6. ‘Action’ the list! No matter how great your lists are it will always come down to just ‘getting on with it’.

7. Tick off every task you complete. Don’t be disheartened if on occasions you don’t tick off all five; there are always days when unexpected events take over our time. Just carry them forward to the next day but only do this once for each task!

Longer Term Task Lists

You’ve now mastered your time to ensure you achieve your daily ‘Must Do’ list so what about your longer-term actions? Decide upon a diary system that works for you (paper or electronic), but it should allow you to enter notes and reminders for each day.

Yearly planning;-

* Enter all meetings, conferences, birthday, holidays, etc. for the forthcoming year

* Create two lists;-

i. The goals you would like to achieve throughout the year, e.g., run a marathon.

ii. Tasks that you want to get done during the year, e.g., tidy up all your office files.

* Block out your diary for 30 minutes at the end of each month, to plan the month ahead.

* Block out at least one day per month for planning, reviewing goals and objectives, and developing new ideas.

Monthly Planning;-

* Review all events entered at the beginning of the year.

* Review all current tasks and any from the yearly planner and allocate date/time for each

* Allocate time for meetings, reports, projects

* Review your goals ensuring that you are on target to achieve them

Weekly Planning;-

* Create a plan on Sunday evening for the week ahead that will incorporate your tasks thus creating your ‘Must Do’ list

* Schedule time for delegating and monitoring progress

* Allow ‘interruption free’ times to catch up and arrange calls etc.


As you work through your lists, you will feel more and more efficient which will motivate you to achieve even more. You will have more of a grasp of how long tasks take you and will see the rewards of being organised freeing up your time for the ‘fun’ goals you have set. Good Luck!

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