The odds are that you are reading this article, because you already use some kind of To-Do list system in your life and want to improve it. The question is, do you use this system to its full potential? Are you making some mistakes, which hold you back in completing your daily tasks? The key is to identify these mistakes and take effective action to have the best outcome.

Here are the most common mistakes many people are facing, when working with To-Do lists:

1. Several pages long lists

Many people start their morning or evening routine with putting thought in their tasks for the day ahead. On this list you will find laundry folding, answering to emails, finally making a dentist appointment – you have to scroll a few times to get to the bottom. A list like this will let you feel demotivated, because it is just not possible to complete every item on it.
The quick fix?
Take your time and write down the most important three tasks you have to complete. Add them in a separate folder as your critical tasks, which have the biggest benefit and are high priority. And then keep the To-Do tool open all the time to be sure to complete them or set a reminder.

2. Set priorities

If you are one of these people who cannot shorten their list, you should think about bringing your tasks in a certain order. The most common one is to put the most important one on top to the least important task at the bottom. You can be even more specific by putting labels on them (e.g. family, work, …). For me it is also really helpful to have 3 different folders and name them with the time they need. In the first file are all the To-Dos which take more than an hour, the second one is filled with 30min tasks and the third has all the quick-fixes in it (calling the hairdresser for an appointment for instance).

3. Be clear

I know it is not easy to quantify tasks by how much time you need to spend on completing it, but it is harder to be productive if you do not know how long it takes to cross it out of your To-Do list. Before starting any task, think about an approximant estimate of how much time you will have to invest. As a result, you will have a simple framework of how much can be accomplished in one day. Even if you are wrong in the beginning, you will get better in analysing how much time is required.
Furthermore, try to be as specific as possible in the tasks’ action. Break one big item down in many subtasks. For instance: you are a graphic designer and your task is to create a new logo for a client. This does not include specific actions. You better split the “new logo” into “Research corporate design” and “Design first draft”.
To be on the save side, your tasks should have a measurable outcome, have a start and end time and should be broken down to the smallest action possible.

4. Don’t get thrown off the track

As a developer, accountant or other employee you usually have a typical work routine. But we all experience emergencies or other unexpected happenings, which derail us. On the one hand, it is important to structure your day to know that you have everything included in your day. On the other hand, it is equally important to be flexible.
Start your day by checking your calendar and see what activities are planned for the day. Also take a look in the future to know what else is on your list. Once you have an overview, include some free time (this can be an hour or two) for unplanned occasions.
If you do not need this time-cushion for “the unsuspected” you can work on you not important tasks, which gets always ignored on your To-Do list.

5. Move, delegate or never complete

We are all busy people and most of the time you won’t be able to finish everything listed (even though you did everything mentioned before).
As a result, you have three options:
Move it: your roll it over into tomorrow’s list. It is okay to do this with two or three tasks, but be careful that you don’t overdo it, otherwise you end up with 63 items on your list.
Delegate it: Some tasks just cannot be done after moving them to the following day and prioritizing them. In this case it is time to delegate it to a team member. Use a team management tool like acteamo to easily assign tasks to colleges and check how they are getting on.
Never complete it: If you tried to roll the task over and over again and there is no one to complete it, it is time to drop it. Usually these items on your list have no significant impact on your personal or work life. Overtime you will get a feeling for which items are unnecessary and are not worth adding to the To-Do list.

6. Set goals

Do you know that feeling that the work you are doing does not really matter? You procrastinate and feel demotivated. Therefore, it is important to link you tasks to a goal. When creating your To-Do list, include why the item is on this paper. You will feel more motivated to complete this task by knowing what impact it has for your future and long-term goals.

It is not hard to fix these goals, just go through your To-Do list and check if they meet the points listened above. Start with just working on 3 tasks a day and work your way up to the capacity you can complete in your day-to-day life. Use work management tools like acteamo to keep an overview of your tasks and also which team member is assigned to which delegated To-Do, so you can still “Do what you love”!