To-do List vs. Master List

I’ve talked about setting up and reviewing your containers, so I spent some time reviewing my own and taking action on a couple that needed attention. I feel freed up and can now focus on more important things.

A regular, quick review of my containers – and putting everything in its place – is central to my time management system. In this way, things don’t pile up and become overwhelming. It saves me time in the long run and reduces frustration, stress, and distractions.

Here’s another way to save time and reduce frustration and stress: make realistic and reasonable To-Do Lists.

How many times have you made a To-Do List that’s a mile long? How many times have you reached the end of a day only to feel frustrated by all of the things on your list that didn’t get done?

Create a To-Do List that will work for you and not against you.

The first thing I start with is a distinction between what I call my Master List and my To-Do List. My Master List is a brain dump – in writing – of EVERYTHING that has to get done. Meetings, appointments, chores, errands, tasks, projects, ideas…everything gets captured in my system. In this way, I don’t have to keep them on my mind, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting about them.

My To-Do List is not a list of 10 or 20 items; I know I won’t get that many things done in one day. Instead, my list consists of the 3-4 important things that must get done today. I only choose 3-4 things because I know there will be interruptions, fatigue, and other factors that I may not be able to fully control. If I finish those things, say, by lunchtime, I go back to the Master List and select a few more things for my To-Do List.

Since the list is so short, I don’t get overwhelmed or frustrated. This makes it easier to concentrate on one thing at a time. I always want to be making forward progress, even if the steps are small.

A general rule of thumb is to make a To-Do List of things that will not take up more than 50% of your day. This allows for unforeseen factors that slow your progress. At the end of the day, you’ve done everything on your To-Do List and can benefit from the positive energy that brings. Before you close down for the day, write the first 3-4 things for the following day’s To-Do List. This way, you won’t waste time trying to figure out where to start.

About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

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