To-Do-List Methodologies: An overview

All of us experience days when we have a million things on our plate but are clueless about how to get them done. However, with so many things to take care of, there are several ways to keep track of them. A quick search across the App store will acquaint you with hundreds of tools that promise to enable higher productivity and timely execution of work. Often, you may find it challenging to choose the right tool that lets you keep track of the to-dos and important tasks at hand. In fact, sometimes it is not just the tool or app used to manage your list that disrupts your flow of work. It may be the incompetent to-do-list methodologies that you use for the purpose.                                 

Effective Methodologies to Manage Your To-Do-List

Group Similar Tasks Together

At times, there are tasks that require different thought processes from our end. For example, writing a blog and creating an advertisement for your website require two distinct mindsets and skills. Working on them one after the other might not give you the optimal result. Work is done best and more productively when similar tasks are grouped together. In this case, your level of energy needs to be considered as well. For instance, tasks like editing and writing should be done first thing in the morning when your energy levels are quite high. This must be followed by other tasks that require relatively lower concentration levels and can be reserved for your afternoon slots after lunch.

Segregate Your List into Sections

Generally, we all want to believe that we are in complete control of the tasks we perform. However, the flow of work might be disrupted by an emergency meeting or any other unprecedented event. In such cases, how do you cope with the list of tasks you have lined up for the day? According to Robert Pozen, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management (Author – Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours), it can be done by dividing your task list into 3 distinct sections. The first covers listed meetings, events, and calls that need to be taken care of for the day. The second comprises things that need to be overseen during meetings and appointments. The third and final list constitutes tasks that need to be performed but cannot be adjusted in the calendar. Each of these can individually be taken care of as per your schedule throughout the day.

The 43 Folders System or Tickler File

The 43 Folders system is one of the most popular methods promoted by management and productivity experts round the globe. It is a tickler file system that is used to organize time-sensitive appointments, documents, and emails by labeling them according to the specific date on which the task is to be performed. Every month has 12 folders arranged, with subsequent 31 folders for each day. The system derives its name from this total collection of 43 folders. Thus, this perpetual system keeps all your files arranged for the next 31 days and the next 12 months together. An incredibly useful means of arranging your to-do-list, the 43 folders system requires you to work on it every day, adding contents to your priority list, as and when needed. The concept of the system is quite simple. Any task, document or email that you need to be reminded of on a specific date in the future is placed within the according folder. Each morning, the day’s folder is pulled out in an automated fashion and brought forward to your inbox. Thus, anything you need for the day is right at hand. 

Label Tasks and to-dos with Time Allotment

Several apps let you arrange and keep a tab on your to-do list by processing them to your official inbox daily. There are instances where these apps make use of context tabs to segregate the tasks into different categories for convenience. Nevertheless, an additional inclusion of time tags like 5 mins, 15 mins, 30 mins, 1 hour and so on to these tasks can be a great way to keep track of how long it takes for a task to be performed. It helps use to productively use the odd times of the days where you have some time to spare before a fixed appointment.

The SUG Methodology

Out of several reasons, the most important one that results in a long unorganized to-do-list is our inability to distinguish between an important task and a normal one. This is where the SUG methodology comes into play. SUG stands for seriousness, urgency, and growth. The methodology primarily requires you to analyse and ask yourself questions like how important a task is, how long will it take to be executed and the possibilities of aggravation if the task gets delayed. Try arranging each of these categories in a column and determine which of these rank ‘high’, ‘low’ or ‘medium’ in the category of urgency and seriousness, and ‘yes’ or ‘no’ under the category of growth. Once you have this chart prepared in front of you, you automatically witness the prioritization of tasks according to their parameters. A few additional questions that you might consider in the process are as follows – Is there a way to automate this task? Is this a task that can solely be performed by me? Can this task create an opportunity for me to mentor others?

Maintain a ‘Done’ List

Often, there are days when we are so caught up in unexpected yet urgent tasks, that we forget to note the tasks performed throughout the day. This can leave an annoyingly long list of undone tasks at the end of the day, making us feel guilty for the huge amount of incomplete work. An excellent way of sparing this pain is maintaining a second or an additional ‘done’ list, which keeps track of the additional tasks performed. This not only helps keep track of all the tasks performed throughout the day but also gives a sense of fulfillment and achievement due to enhanced productivity. Moreover, it keeps the performer’s spirits high throughout the week, instead of them being bogged down.

To-Do-List Methodologies vs. tools vs. habits

Irrespective of how subtly we desire to incorporate the fun factor, at the end of it all, work will always be work. The best thing we can do to help ourselves is to discover the most efficient ways in which to keep our to-do-lists short and organized. Apps are undoubtedly a great way to help this, but the key lies in using the right methodologies in the operation of these task management tools and apps. We need to develop a habit for following the methodologies that fit for us.