The regular to-do list can be an excellent tool but only if used right. If you actually try to work off of a to-do list which contains too many tasks; you are going to struggle to determine which task is most important. In fact, if you are under pressure or you are feeling lazy, you are most likely to choose the easiest item on the list. While this will give you a quick buzz as you tick an item off of your list; it will do very little for your results. What you really need to do is to focus on importance.
Improve Your Focus
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Why focus on importance
There is a limit to how much you can do in a single day. If you fill your day with meaningless tasks, there will be no time left to complete the important work. This is made worse by the fact that things will go wrong from time to time. You will have emergencies; you will get sick and you will suffer delays for a whole multitude of reasons. If all you have done when things go wrong is a handful of relatively unimportant tasks then your day is wasted.
However, if you focus on importance, you make sure that the most important tasks get done first. If you get your most important task for the day completed early; even if something goes wrong afterwards, you will still have had a productive day.
How to focus on importance
You should rarely be working directly from your big to-do list. Instead, you should make a small list for each day which contains your 3-5 most important tasks for the day. This should be your focus for the day. As you work your way through the list, you begin to see that you are having a highly productive day. The more of these items you complete, the more productive your day is. You simply cannot make the same argument for the small, relatively unimportant tasks.
Just sit down the night before, or first thing in the morning and make your list out. You can have one list which covers both work and personal life (3-5 important items for each) or you can make separate lists for each.
Limiting yourself to only three things for each makes you think and prioritise. And getting those three things done early-on insures you’re having a productive day no matter what else happens.
Organisation and Focus
Maintaining organisation and focus is the key to ensuring that you constantly complete your most important work.
If you need more great time management strategies to help you maintain your organisation and focus, check out 'The Modern Professional's Guide to Organisation and Focus.'
There will be distractions, there will be emergencies and there will be situations that you just didn’t anticipate. You have to allow for this and you do so by using your time to consistently work on your most important tasks. Doing so insures that even a bad day can be a productive day. Each day, work from a list of your most important items and always focus on importance. If you have any doubt as to what you should be doing, ask yourself
‘What is the most important thing I can do right now with the time and resources available to me?’