How to use lists in time management

Time management and productivity are all about making the right choices about what to do in any given moment. If you can master this, you will be able to get more important work done and each and every day will be more valuable. However, if you are to make the right choice, you need to know what all of your options are. This is where many people fall down with their time management. Having the right lists will help you stay focused and you’ll know exactly what you need to get done. You won’t start your day wasting time trying to figure out what you should be doing or getting pulled in every direction as things pop up.

Stress Free Productivity

How to use lists in time management

There are a number of different lists which you can use to improve your time management but I am just going to cover a few of the core lists, which will totally rock your productivity.

1. The big list

This is the list where you capture everything you agree to do. Simply make a note of what it is that you agree to do and any relevant details e.g. deadline. The purpose for this list is to ensure that you capture everything and nothing falls through the tracks.

You can regularly review your big list, once per week should be fine, and check that you are taking action to get these things done.

2. Contextualised lists

This is where the tasks you have agreed to do are grouped by context. You really can group these anyway you would like as long as they make sense to you.  The idea is that when you find yourself in that given context, you can just pull out the list and choose from items on the list which you can do. Allow me to give you some examples:

You might only see someone (e.g. your boss) once per week. If this is the case, it is essential that you address every issue or task that you require their presence for. Otherwise, you will have to wait another week or make unnecessary trips, phone calls or emails. To use a contextualised list, you just need to have a list under that person’s name. Any item which requires their presence would be added to this list during the week. Then, when you meet up with them, you can just take out the list and address every item on the list.

Another, more simple, example of a contextualised list would be a phone calls list. On this list, you would add all of the calls you have to make along with any relevant details. If you were to find yourself away from the office with just your phone, you would still be able to complete valuable work by opening the phones calls list and working your way through the calls.

Another key advantage to contextualised lists is that when you find yourself with spare time and you need to find a task to complete, you only consider options that you can complete in that context e.g. you would only consider items on your boss’ list if you actually have access to your boss at that moment in time.

3. The daily list

This is a list for the items that you are going to get done on that day. You should just focus on 3-5 important tasks which you can complete that day. By having this list, you are focused only on these items, thus ensuring that your day is more effective. The daily list is a very simple but powerful tool; just make out your list the night before, or first thing in the morning. Write down the most important things you need to get done today to make progress.

Of course the best list won’t do you much good unless you use it. Make it a habit to check it throughout the day and don’t stop until each item on your list is checked off. Getting into this habit alone will make sure you stay productive.

The most important thing with the daily list is that you don’t try to cram too many items onto it. If you have some spare time during the day, you can take a quick look at your big list or contextualised lists and choose a task which you can complete with the time and resources available.

4. Someday maybe list

This is an excellent concept from David Allen. If there are items which you would like to tackle in the future or great ideas which are not workable right now; they do not belong on any of the lists mentioned above. However, you do not want to forget about them so, there is a really simple solution – a someday maybe list. By placing these items on this list, you make sure that you keep hold of them but you do not waste time thinking about them on a daily basis.

You can review the list every week to see if there is anything on there which you might want to work on in the coming week. If there is, you just move it to one of the lists above.

If you are looking for excellent strategies to improve your time management, check out Quick Fixes for Your Productivity.

Lists, if used correctly, are a fantastic time management tool. They help you to stay organised and they ensure that you do not forget anything important. However, too many people just write anything and everything down on their list and the list quickly becomes cluttered. Remember that a list can only help your organisation if you keep that list organised.