Let’s talk about organizing a to-do list so you actually get stuff done. It’s time to kick old “time management” ideas to the curb and use “focus management” to actually get things done…and feel really good about it.
I’d like to introduce you to my new best friend, Toodledo. It’s a website AND an app, and yes, you can print it out on paper, too. It’s got the best combination of cross platform compatibility, ease of use, and prioritization features that I’ve found. It’s simple. And it’s free. I like free.
Toodledo prioritizes your list for you. Here’s just a snippet of what the screen looks like from my PC.
I leave Toodledo up in a browser window on my computer all the time. When I have a brilliant thought, it takes 2 seconds to enter a new task into my list, and then flip back to whatever I was doing, so I don’t lose focus.
Here’s the real secret. I can focus on my priority tasks, but only if they are sitting in front of me. But having to prioritize my tasks each day can often lead down rabbit holes. Or squirrel chasing, if you prefer.
What you don’t have those, “…Look, there’s a squirrel!” moments?
I determined long ago what my top priorities are by category. My clients are always top priority when I’m working, whether it’s returning calls or working on projects. But I’ve been pretty honest with you guys that if I’m not on my game, I’ll goof around with email (my default activity) instead of getting to the absolute top priority items. My full list of priorities are
- work admin
- blog campaigns
- clubs/volunteer work
- blog techie stuff
I set each task into one of those categories (Toodledo calls them Folders), and my task list is automatically prioritized by folder and due date. Just one click on the Task tab (near the top left of the screen) updates my day instantly. I do this often, as I work through my tasks and add new ones.
The snippet above shows just today and tomorrow, but I can schedule tasks out weeks in advance, which is a good way to get started on self-paced training classes I’ve purchased or bigger, strategic projects I have planned for the year. I also block time on my calendar for these projects. Sadly, there isn’t good integration between Toodledo and my Outlook calendar, but even without this, I LOVE Toodledo.
No more sticky notes for a to-do list.
I never have to ask, “What should I do next?”
Even with a great tool like Toodledo, you need to know how to really organize a kick-butt to-do list so things get done.
Principles for Organizing a Kick-Butt To-Do List so Things Get Done
List it all.
Fans of David Allen’s GTD will recognize the data dump. Store your to-do’s in a list, and they won’t constantly rattle through your head, killing brain cells by repeated force. Toddledo is the list that holds it all for me, but you can do this on paper, if you must.
Don’t Use the Email Inbox as a To-Do List
Just don’t. If something needs your attention, put it in Todoodle and schedule it. You’ll never lose a commitment again, and you’ll finally be able to clear out your inbox, too!
Recover from Shiny Object Syndrome
While you are doing something, you think of the 30 other things that you should be/could be/would be doing if you weren’t getting interrupted every 8.6 seconds. Capture tasks on your list, return to tasks, and get something done for heaven’s sake! (It’s called a parking lot, but you can call it whatever you want if it helps you stay focused.)
Know what your top 3-5 Must-Do’s each day. Really, with 8 hours in a day, and who knows how many gremlins running loose, how much did you think you were going to get done? Do you honestly think you can tick off 50 tasks? If you have 15 or 20 items due today, you’d better have your top priorities right on the top of the list, figure out how to delegate, or decide what can slide to another day or not get done at all. I don’t want to actually spend time reviewing my list each day. I want to hit the ground running, and Toodledo lets me do that. I’ve found that I can often get done between 8-12 tasks, but that’s a very full day!
Use the 2 Minute Rule
If it takes you less than 2 minutes, don’t put it on the list, just do it. But be honest about it. Two minutes to order something online? Maybe. But not if you can’t get into the site, forgot your password, have to comparison shop, or any number of other problems.
Don’t Confuse Prioritizing with Doing the Work
Notice anything weird? We haven’t even gotten anything done yet. Well, we haven’t scratched through any tasks (which can feel oh so satisfying), but we have gotten all of our tasks out in the open and prioritized, and that is HUGE!
You can’t manage time, but you can manage where you put your focus.
Today’s task for the 31 Days of Clutter-Free Living task is to STEP AWAY FROM THE STICKY NOTES and go try out Toodledo. You may not love it, but you just might. I’d love to hear if you use it already, or if you’ve found another great tool. There are certainly others, and if you are part of our free Facebook Group, I’m sure we’ll have a lively discussion about what people are using for to-do lists. Come join us!
You can get to Toodledo on PC or Mac, but if you don’t yet have a gadget so you can take your to-do list on the go, be sure to enter the drawing for the Samsung Galaxy tablet giveaway.