The way we work today is vastly different to how people worked 20 years ago. The internet, cellphones, workstations and all the technological advancements made over the last two decades have seen people work faster, projects have scaled and become bigger which in turn, makes workloads larger and more stressful.
However, despite all the improvement in tech and business, the one thing that has remained reliable are to-do lists – breaking tasks down into manageable chunks. It’s the ultimate stress reliever when it comes to understanding or simplifying tasks that may seem scary at first, but it helps to show you how to reach your end goal.
If you aren’t using to-do lists yet, we’ll show you how to create an effective one to get your work done.
Set out your goals
The first step of any to-do list is to look at the task at hand and figure out what your end goals are. They’ll provide you with the vision and direction that you need to determine what you need at every step of the task you need to complete.
Many people skip this first step and simply start writing down what they need to do without thinking or collaborating with the people that will be involved in completing the task. It’s vital that you get everyone around your office desk or in a boardroom so that you can fully understand the entire spectrum of what needs to be done – regardless of how small the initial tasks may be.
By doing this, you’ll save a lot of time later down the line when people are confused by what they need to do, or if things that were important weren’t listed. You’ll also get a good grasp of your workload and those of others so that you can delegate tasks.
Spot potential obstacles
The next step on your journey of creating an effective to-do list is to spot any potential problems or obstacles to the task that you need to complete. These issues should be documented and everyone working on the task should be made aware of them.
Do not skip this step as it will be a disaster if they’re not accounted for. For example, a freelance writer who is tasked with writing a large piece of content could end up sharing incorrect information.
By spotting any issues early on, you save yourself the hassle of repeating any work later on, which can waste a lot of time and cause you to miss potential deadlines.
Create the steps for your to-do list
Creating the steps for your to-do list is just as important as completing each of the steps you set out. If the steps don’t focus on the task’s main goal or end result, you’ll end up failing the task at hand.
It doesn’t matter how small the steps are, include them in the planning process. For example, someone writing a large piece of content cannot start without brainstorming ideas first. As we mentioned above, make sure that you get everyone in the office involved to participate here as it will ensure that your roadmap to completion is a smoother one.
Next, use the ultimate task goals as benchmarks for establishing the other steps on the to-do list. Try to make each of these steps small, so they can be easily revised if need be. Do this to ensure that task progress is charted in a non-discouraging way.
Revise your steps
Remember that nothing is set in stone and these steps can be changed if new issues arise whilst you complete your task. Don’t be scared to add new steps for the same reasons as well.
Keep monitoring your progress
Now that you have all the steps set out and the process of completing your task has begun, now is the time to keep an eye on your progress and the progress of others.
Things like a lack of communication or misunderstanding a step in the process can affect the quality and timing of your project, so it’s important that you maybe recap at the end of the day or week on the progress of your project.
Use tools such as Slack, Trello or Asana to monitor your progress.
It’s almost impossible for you not to experience any challenges or problems as you move further down the line of completing your project. Keep an open mind and change the steps of the process as you see fit.
About the Author
Jarred Manasse is a freelance writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. When he is not at the desk, you’ll find him hiking, camping, running or relaxing on the couch watching sports.