Brought To You By Emily Parks
Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
Helping You Make Every Minute Matter!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Smart Planning Makes Quick Work of Your To-Do List

When your desk is piled high with "to-do" items, it's easy to stall if you don't know where or how to begin... Here are tips to increase your productivity and tackle projects, both big and small.

Do the hardest thing first... Instead of starting your day by checking messages, rifling through the mail or taking care of easy administrative tasks, attack the hardest, most challenging or least enjoyable task earlier in the day, when your energy level is probably higher and your mind is most certainly clearer. Carve out a chunk of time each morning to tackle those heavy-duty projects, avoiding the procrastination often associated with large jobs. In other words, plan to be "proactive" in the morning so you can be "reactive" during moments that pop-up later, knowing your most pressing projects have been handled earlier in the day. It may not be easy to start with the hard stuff, but you'll get the momentum going and feel accomplished all day long.

Know your natural energy patterns... Although being proactive early so you can be reactive later is very important, it is equally important to tackle the hardest tasks when your energy level is at its highest, which may be first-thing in the morning or may come at another point in your day. Monitor your reaction to various activities at different points throughout the day over the next week so you can schedule your day accordingly. Then, once you know the time of day during which your energy level is at its highest, schedule your toughest tasks during that daypart, and be firm about maintaining those appointments with yourself.

Clear the clutter out of your brain... Write it down! Since the average desk worker spends 3 hours per week sorting piles to find the project needing to be worked on next, you can start getting your work under control by writing down the "to-do" items and bright ideas floating around in your head. By relieving your brain from remembering tedious details, you allow new, creative thinking to develop in there. Create a running list of phone calls to make, things to discuss with coworkers, supplies to get and other small-detail tasks. Create another running list for brainstorming, creative planning, ideas to attack down the road and life-long goals. Keep all your lists in one place, like a multi-subject, spiral-bound notebook, in your planner or on your computer / PDA, making it easier to see what can be delegrated and preventing the endless search for Post-It notes scattered about. Then, as you work into this system, use that same location for meeting notes, phone messages, things to be recalled from ongoing discussions and everything else that's been needlessly filling up your mind.

Plan for tomorrow at the end of today... Take the last 15 minutes of each workday to create tomorrow's "to-do" list, but be realistic about what can be completed in one day. Focus on 3-5 priority tasks, which can be written on a 3" x 5" index card to keep in front of you throughout the next workday. This habit of planning will give you the gift of focus, allowing you to get a jump-start the next morning, particularly important when following the "do the hardest thing first" suggestion listed above. By writing down everything that needs to be accomplished tomorrow, you create a map and can prioritize so urgent needs get done. The process of putting your thoughts in writing helps you relax at home because you'll know the "to-do" items that have been scrolling through your head are now all down on paper. Plus, during the end-of-day planning process, you can reflect on the great work you accomplished during the day, enabling you to leave work feeling proud as well as excited for tomorrow.
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