4 ‘TO DO’ tips from My Special PA
These days I am increasingly reliant on to-do lists as I support multiple clients. I often do work for more than one client on any given day, so the lists ensure that I know what I need to do and by when.
However, the humble written to-do list (which still has something to offer) has evolved into a plethora of choices, from printed stationery to dedicated online applications. Different people prefer different systems and tools to keep them organised.
So in my case I also have a master to-do list, to make sure I regularly check the many places where my clients’ to-do lists are stored!
Setting up to-do lists can be time-consuming but it really is worth it if they help you get things done efficiently. The challenge is capturing the right information, in a way that works for you.
So here are 4 tips from My Special PA to help you get things done.
1) Work out what information you need to include in your to-do list
It might sound like I’m stating the obvious but this can be trickier than it sounds. Much depends on how you plan to use the list in practice. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What information (other than the task itself) do I need to record? e.g. due date, priority level
- Would I work more efficiently if the tasks could be categorised? e.g. calls to make, things to buy
- Do I want to break down the main task into smaller ones and group them together? e.g. holiday prep might include: take out travel insurance, find sunglasses, buy insect repellent, print out boarding passes, etc.
2) Decide what system/tool will really work for your needs
Some trial and error (patience!) may be required as there are so many options to choose from. Following on from the questions in tip #1, here are some more specific questions to help figure out what will work best for you.
- Do I prefer using paper (diaries, pads, post it notes) or my smartphone/ iPad/ laptop?
- Do I want to be able to add in new tasks anytime, anywhere?
- Do I need to be reminded about tasks?
- Do I want to share the list(s) with anyone else? If so, how?
- Will I be assigning some of the tasks to someone else? How will I know when they’re completed?
- Will someone need extra information to do a task for me? If so, how will I provide them with this?
It’s easy to overcomplicate things when a written list may suffice. But if that’s too basic, there’s a lot of great stationery on sale to help you stay organised.
Or you can take full advantage of software you may already use to create an electronic task list. For example:
- Google already provides ‘Tasks’ functionality within your Gmail account
- Evernote has a lovely checklist feature so you don’t lose that satisfying feeling of crossing things out on a paper to-do list
- Highrise (a Contact Relationship Management system) allows you to create and assign tasks
- There are also dedicated apps for lists and tasks, like Wunderlist and Any.DO (many of which are free).
Whatever you choose it should become your trusted friend, rather than a bully you want to rip up or uninstall!
3) Remember to update your list
While it’s extremely satisfying to watch a to-do list get shorter, it’s vital that the list evolves and tasks continue to be added to it. Banish those nagging thoughts at the back of your head – that you’ve forgotten to do something – with the confidence it’s all on your to-do list.
It’s therefore important to be able to access your to-do list as you think of new tasks, and add them there and then so they don’t get forgotten. Or make sure you get into a routine of transferring those scribbles (on post-its or in your notebook) into your list at the end of every day; whatever works for you, as long as there’s a system in place.
4) Getting those tasks done!
To-do lists will certainly make you feel more in control of your workload. By spending time effectively planning them, they can save you time when completing tasks.
Sadly, they can’t do the tasks for you, so we recommend you actually schedule in some recurring time in your calendar for ‘doing’ things! This might need to be moved around, depending on how your weeks shape up with other commitments, but the most important thing is that you start out with some allocated time to review and work through your to-do list.
Most software applications offer ‘reminder’ features. You may need to ‘snooze’ a reminder, and you might not get a task done on its due date, but try to set a completion date and take advantage of this functionality.
Lastly (and wherever possible!) delegate. There’s no point having an all-singing, all-dancing list if you simply don’t have the time to do many of the tasks. As you’ve heard us say before, we believe the creative core of our clients’ work should be their priority.
Need some help getting things done?
All of the My Special PAs offer experience and flexibility that can help you feel more organised. Please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.