Monday, September 14, 2015

Managing Larger To Do Lists

So if you have stopped by the blog, you may have already stumbled across my productivity challenge, where I show you how to work up to a consistent and planned five items a day to knock off of your backlog. But what happens if you need to get more done than just five items? Here's a couple of tricks to still get you by.

Limit The Commitment

My guide to limit your daily to do list down to five key items does not assume that you will only accomplish five items in a day. Rather, the concept is to limit your commitment to only five items, since we tend to overestimate what we can get done. In this instance, you know you need to get more done, but don't make the mistake of thinking that you can accomplish everything on your whole backlog list. 

Make a "May versus Must" List

One of my favorite ways to prioritize larger to do lists is to make what I call the "May versus Must" list. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write the word "Must" and on the other side write the word "May." On the "Must" side, write down everything you must get done that day. Be ruthless. You should only include items you have to get done that day. Time pressured items, things that can't be done the next day, or things with severe penalties if you don't get them done should be on the "Must" list. Everything else goes on the "May" side, because you may do it if you have time. Feel free to prioritize the "May" side. Then do the items you must do first. Get all of those done and then start in on the "May" side as you have time. It helps if you keep the "Must" side to close to five, to keep within your normal rhythm.

Move Unfinished Items to the Backlog

Ideally, you finish everything you must do, but likely you will have some items on a large to do list that are left incomplete. Resist the temptation to keep the list for the next day. Rather, move those items into your normal backlog. If you have time the next day to tackle a bigger list - go back and make another "May versus Must" list for the next day. Occasionally, I will do this on the weekends to try to get more done. This will make your second-day list intentional and prioritized, rather than just a carryover list that might not be the most important items. It also gives you a full day's perspective which may alter priorities, rather than depending on your wisdom of the past. Finally, you might have new time pressures that might get overlooked if you are just continuing to work off the prior day's list.

What other tips do you have for managing larger to do lists? I'd love to hear them if you want to drop me a line on social media.

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