To-do lists are used on a day-to-day basis to manage your tasks. By putting together a thorough to-do list you can see at a glance not only what needs to be achieved for the day but how realistic it is in the time frame you have.
For example, if you have a task that will take you 3 hours to complete, but you are going to spend the majority of your day in a meeting, realistically you won't have enough time to complete it or you may have fractured focus because you may not be working at your peak time.
Planning doesn't have to be a complicated process. In a lot of cases a simple task plan is all you need.
- Spend the last 30 minutes of your day planning what you need to do tomorrow. This can be hand written in a diary or you may like to keep an electronic version in a calendar, document or mobile/tablet.
- Mark off items as you achieve them to feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Where possible, delegate to others if the task needs to be completed that day and can't be achieved by you.
- Plan when you have meetings, and if you will spend time away from your job for the day, then plan tasks accordingly.
Another consideration when scheduling your day is choosing the best time of the day to complete your tasks. Certain times of the day may be quieter or busier than others, and better suited to completing certain tasks. You don't want to schedule a task that requires your full focus at the busiest time of the day when there's likely to be more distractions.
Also, you might find that at certain times during the day your focus is at its peak. It might be first thing in the morning, midday, late afternoon - it's different for everyone. The idea is that you want to take full advantage of your peak focus time and use it to complete tasks that require your full attention.
Hour of power
One way that you can allocate your time and take advantage of quiet times or times when your brain is at its best is to schedule an hour of power. This involves blocking out time to work on tasks when there are minimal interruptions and you can apply your full focus to each task.
For your “hour of power” to be effective, it is important that you minimise interruptions. You may like to:
- Divert phone calls to voicemail or to another team member who can screen the urgency of the call.
- If you have an office, close the door or if you work in an open plan space book a meeting room.
- Let your team and colleagues know that you would like to work on a task that requires a lot of concentration and that you can't be interrupted. You also need to let them know when you can be contacted again