It often seems impossible to finish every task on your to-do list before the end of the day, and there is no worse feeling than going to bed worrying about everything you’ve got to finish tomorrow. Looking to break the cycle? You’ve got to be strategic.
The problem with the average to-do list is that if you write everything you need to get done in the foreseeable future, you’ll never be able to accomplish the entire list in a single day. Instead, break up your tasks into three manageable goals. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to know you’ve done everything that you set out to do that day. Below, we’ve outlined three steps you need to take to make it happen.
Write down what you’re going to accomplish today. First things first: Write out a small list of tasks that are of the utmost importance and you know you can accomplish by 5 p.m. This shouldn’t be more than half a dozen items, although you can break down a larger task into more manageable pieces if you like. The idea is that you’ll be able to cross every item off by the end of the work day, leaving you satisfied and ready to enjoy your evening.
Put aside any extra tasks for tomorrow. In a second column, write down all the things you would like to accomplish today, but will realistically have to wait until tomorrow. Feel free to let this list be a little longer than your first one—you can always revise it later.
Future goals? Make time for them too. Have any long-term projects in the pipeline? Of course you do. But there’s no need to put them on your main to-do list, where they’ll languish day after day. Instead, place them in a third column, where they’re in sight but out of mind. If a free hour appears in your day, feel free to work on them, but don’t dedicate needless mental space to work that isn’t due for weeks.
At the end of the day, write out a new three-column to-do list for tomorrow, and leave work feeling accomplished and prepared for whatever your next work day has to throw at you.