In Part 1 of this article, we looked at 9 tips to help us stop procrastinating and get on top of what needs to be done. Most of those tips dealt with our mind-set and how to approach tasks with greater purpose and energy. In Part 2, we look at the final piece of the puzzle; an easily overlooked, but oh-so-important component in helping us organize our lives and get things done – the humble ‘To-Do’ list.
The ‘Efficiency Guru’ and author of the book, ‘Master Your Workday Now’1, Michael Linenberger, is pretty much the king of the ‘To Do’ list. He thinks we can better manage our lives by creating a simple ‘Workday Mastery To Do List’ (yes, it’s a mouthful, and yes, it really does work!). Linenberger breaks his list into three ‘urgency zones’ – ‘Critical Now’, ‘Opportunity Now’, and ‘Over the Horizon’ tasks.
‘Critical Now’ tasks should be reserved for anything which needs doing, like, right freakin’ now! You should never have more than 5 ‘Critical Now’ tasks at any one time (after all, apart from stay-at-home or working mums, who the hell can handle more than 5 tasks at once?). But you do need to list them and you do need to keep them in front of you, as getting on top of them will help you dial back your stress levels. Not sure if a task should be on this list? Ask yourself this question – Will I be able to relax tonight knowing this task hasn’t been done? If the answer is ‘No’, then add that task to your ‘Critical Now’ list.
‘Opportunity Now’ tasks aren’t due immediately, they’re more the kind of tasks you’d like to get to today if you could. But keep on top of them and keep reviewing them, because these kind of tasks have the habit of sneaking up on you and suddenly becoming urgent. If they do, they’re not ‘Opportunity Now’ tasks any longer, they need to be moved to your ‘Critical Now’ list. Oh, and another thing? This list will quickly grow waaayy too large if you let it. To avoid this, make it a rule to never let ‘Opportunity Now’ tasks get above 20 in number.
‘Over the Horizon’ tasks are the kind of tasks we all love, the ones you can postpone until next week or even much longer. Mind you, that doesn’t mean you can forget about them! You’ll still need to review this list from time-to-time, just to see if you can fit one of them into your schedule or whether they need moving into your ‘Opportunity Now’ list.
And… that’s it! If you find yourself overwhelmed by the things you need to get done, it’s unlikely that any one thing will help you dig yourself out of the mire. Instead, it’s a whole heap of little things, things to do with preparation and mind-set and the way we live our lives, which will help you slowly reclaim your center.
1 Linenberger, Michael; ‘Master Your Workday Now’; New Academy Publishers 2010.