Jun 15 2012

Effective Time Management Through To Do Lists

Time management is one of the most important skills any business person can possess in the 21st century. We are all very busy, so working smarter, not harder, is the only solution to get everything done and still leave time for the important things in life.

If you find yourself constantly crunched for time and feeling like you are running as fast as you can just to stand still, one of the best steps you can take in the direction of more effective time management is to create a to-do list that you will maintain on a regular basis.

There are a number of ways to do this. One is to simply write down the task as soon as it occurs to you, or enter it on a spreadsheet or in a wordprocessing program. Creating a digital to-do list can be extremely handy because you can reorder the information at any time.

Time management experts suggest that you try grouping together similar tasks and activities in order to increase efficiently and get all of the tasks and activities done in a timely manner.

Another tactic for managing your time and getting more done is to set a specific time for the activities on your calendar. Calculate how much time you will need and pencil it into your schedule. Deadlines can help you focus on the task at hand and not allow you to drift through the day, especially if you are working at home or run your own business and only report to yourself.

We all get different moods on different days, and have different scheduled weekly meetings and other events. If you have a lot of preparation to do for those meetings, do not leave the work until the last minute. Do not leave the tasks that you dislike the most until the last minute either. Make these a priority and you will soon be pleased with how fast you complete those tasks and will therefore be able to get on with other important items on your list. The stress of putting things off or resisting the tasks you hate but have to do can make you unable to focus on other things and prevent you from working at your peak efficiency.

Procrastination is extremely prevalent amongst even the smartest of workers. By setting deadlines, you are giving yourself little or no choice but to get on with the items on your list. It is also good discipline. If the date slips by an hour or two when you are the boss, that is fine, but if it does in reference to a project for a major client, it could mean disaster. Estimate how long a task will take, then double that time to give yourself a cushion for interruptions, computer issues and more.

This is an especially valuable technique if you are working freelance, since time literally is money when you are working on an hourly or per project basis. The challenge of freelancing is balancing the projects you have with seeking new ones and doing self-promotion in order to keep the cash coming in. Managing your time and your to-do list should be seen as your path to profitability.

Check your to-do list each morning when you start work, in the afternoon at lunch, and in the evening about an hour before you plan to stop work for the day. Pieces of paper that you jot down notes on are fine to help remind you of anything that pops into your head or comes up when you are talking to a colleague or client, but be sure to keep one master to-do list on a spreadsheet or wordprocessed document that you can refer back to, edit and change.

You can also print out a copy of it to take with you when you are out of the office or if you are commuting on public transport, to help you make notes, set deadlines, or make organizational plans.

For example, you might get a large project that seems overwhelming to even think about, but you need the money. The best way to handle large projects is to break them down into smaller ones that can be accomplished and keep you on target to meet your deadline.

To-do lists can be one of the most effective means of organization and time management if you use them in conjunction with your day planner/calendar to help keep your productivity level up and your stress level down as you complete all your work and meet all your deadlines with ease.

Further Reading
How to Manage Your Time Each Day: Essential Time Management Skills

How to Create an Organized and Productive Home Office

Transforming Stress Into Success: How to Minimize Stress and Maximize Success in Today’s Economy