A lot goes into being at your productive peak. One simple tool that can keep you organized and motivated is a tidy to-do list.
I often hear a common misconception about organizing tasks: It's stressful, overbearing and creates undue pressure. After years of perfecting the craft, I've learned that it's, in fact, the opposite.
Clearly outlining your to-dos creates a clear path to progress. By following these five tips, you'll find that it can change your outlook on your job -- and your overall well-being.
1. Use action words to avoid procrastination.
There are several keys to crafting a to-do. The first: Make each one as actionable as possible.
Need to create a deck for an upcoming presentation? Don't just jot down "slides." Make the item actionable and crystal clear: "Create slides for Monday's presentation." It might seem trivial, but it helps frame the item as something to do -- not just something to think about.
2. Make your to-dos as bite-sized as possible.
Ensure that every item on your list can be completed in one sitting. Your task list shouldn't consist of your long-term goals, but rather smaller, digestible items that steer you in that direction.
Something like "re-tool entire organization's sales process" isn't a to-do. If you notice a free 20 minutes on your calendar and glance at your to-do list, you know that's something you'd never accomplish right then and there.
If you see a to-do that says "Read three articles on successful sales processes," you're more likely to knock it out in the time allotted, getting you one step closer to your larger goal.
3. Ask yourself: Is this to-do really for you?
A task should only be on your to-do list if you are the person most qualified to accomplish it. Before placing something on your list, consider if it's better delegated to someone on your team, or if it should be someone else's responsibility entirely.
Just because you're the first person to learn about a particular task doesn't necessarily mean it's for you. Consider your team members' various skillsets, and if there's a better fit, delegate accordingly.
4. Use the tools that work for you.
There's a wealth of digital tools to help you track your professional and personal tasks - so many that it can be difficult to find the perfect one for you.
My ideology here has evolved over the years. For years, I leaned on Outlook to organize my tasks. I eventually realized that operating so close to my unread emails was counterintuitive, and took my energy away from my tasks at hand.
Here's my advice: Do whatever it takes to get things done. I try not to take too much time being precious with how and where I where and how I record my to-dos, as long as I don't forget it.
5. Abide by the rule of threes.
Mastering a tidy to-do list not only has the potential to boost your productivity, but also improve your overall satisfaction and happiness.
Here's a situation that's far too common: coming home from work, thinking back on the day, and not being able to recall any meaningful accomplishments or progress. String enough of these days together, and it won't be long before you start to feel like your role doesn't matter. Your motivation plummets along with your overall satisfaction, and it's easy to slide into a rut that impacts your life outside the office.
My key to making daily progress tangible and trackable? The rule of threes.
I aim to cross three items off my task list every day. With the right amount of attention, you'll find that it not only pushes you closer to progress, but also gives you a sense of accomplishment that may be hard to come by -- especially when chasing bigger-picture objectives that can't be achieved in a single day or week.
At my company, Arkadium, we preach this ideology to every new hire during our onboarding process. After several recent employee surveys, we've concluded that overall satisfaction is higher than ever before.
By following these five keys, you'll find that meaningful, daily progress is easier to achieve than you probably thought -- and it can directly translate to newfound success and satisfaction.