If you want to be organized, you should have two to-do lists, not one. At least that’s the advice Laura Stack, president of Productivity Pro consultants, offers in her new book, What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do. Here’s how to make those two lists work for you:
The first list is a limited, daily to-do list, which she calls the HIT List, because it only includes High Impact Tasks that gives the list its acronymic name and makes sure you are not focused on the trivial. It should contain a reasonable number of items, geared to how much time available in the day beyond meetings, e-mail, and social engagements. “The HIT list isn’t a repository for everything you want to accomplish,” she declares. The process of putting things on your list helps you to evaluate the value of different tasks and the priorities that need to be assigned.
The Master List
The Master List should include everything you need or want to do at some point. That will include strategic goals for your company or team, and ideas for activities you want to tackle some day when things are less hectic, such as revamping workflow systems, buying a new printer or learning a new language. “Your Master list keeps your daily HIT list from overflowing into uselessness, and may consist of dozen or hundreds of entries as a result,” she writes.
Whenever you think of something that needs to be tackled, you must decide which list it belongs on. Ask yourself: “Is this something that needs to be done today?” If it’s that vital and high impact, place it on the HIT list. If not, add it to your Master List.
Creating the Master List
If you use a paper planner, the HIT list items can go on the appropriate daily page, while the Master List might be filed elsewhere in the book, perhaps behind a tabbed section. But she recommends using Outlook Tasks for your Master List, as it can become the day’s HIT list automatically.
Start by changing the “Arrange By” field to Start Date (not the default Due Date). When you think of something to do, fill in the Start Date, picking the day you want to attack the item or the date you want to next think about it. Enter the Due Date for when it is due. Fill in Categories according to your key projects, allowing you to view your tasks by category to see everything required for a particular project. The Today flag in the To-Do bar now becomes your HIT list, since Tasks will move themselves forward automatically.
She recommends three regular reviews of your lists. The first is a monthly forward think review, in which you study your calendar and project plans to determine what needs to be completed by the end of the month. The weekly reverse thinking review involves reviewing the week’s HIT lists for incomplete or missed items. Finally, every evening before leaving work you want to complete your daily hit list triage, cutting tasks that probably aren’t as important or urgent as you thought. “Stop viewing your HIT list as a “must do” list. Instead, consider it a “want to do’ list, and stay flexible,” she advises.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter