Get Organized! 4 Tips for a Perfect To-Do List

Every New Year brings on new resolutions. For some, it’s to say “no” more on Bagel Day or to put more moolah into their 401K, but I’ve heard from a lot of people lately that organization skills are something they want to improve upon in 2015. As our resident spreadsheet organizer and known for my ‘eagle eye,’ I wanted to share some tips I’ve developed over the years that help me stay organized, starting with everyone’s favorite: the to-do list. Let’s look at how I get my to-do list ta-done!

Photo of to-do list by Flickr's Tim Pierce

Next to my desk at all times is my handy-dandy (wait for it!) notebook. In it, I itemize my week by writing down all my tasks. But that’s not all; there’s a system! Here are the tricks of the trade:

  1. Handwrite your to-do list. This might mean I have to rewrite this a few times as more tasks come up and the list gets messy, but the muscle memory acts as another reminder layer.
  2. Organize your tasks by a common theme. For me, it’s by client. I write down my clients’ names and, under them, the items I need to do for them. Make sure to leave a few spaces underneath for added tasks.
  3. Call out your deadlines. As a visual learner, I like to color coordinate my deadlines by highlighting the tasks that need to get done during the week. This one might sound a little off the deep end, but it helps for me to see at a quick glance what I need to focus on now, and what I can reserve for tomorrow. Maybe just writing the day next to the task might help you.
  4. Store items in a back burner column. If there was a special sauce to my method, this would be it. We all have those items that aren’t on immediate deadline. Maybe it’s a report that’s not due for two weeks, or a meeting that’s planned next month that you need to put slides together for. These are things that don’t have to get done immediately, so, of course, you tend to wait until later. But put them off for too long and you’ll lose steam. As long as they’re on your list, your mind will continue to think about the importance of getting them done.

While I pride myself on being pretty organized already, the perfectionist in me tells me there is always room for improvement. Some of my colleagues prefer to virtually organize, using tools like Basecamp, Wunderlist…or even Word.

What works for you?

Photo Credit: Flickr’s Tim Pierce

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