Whenever you complete a task of any size or importance, it gives you feelings of positivity and power that encourage you to keep going. Crossing that item off a To-Do list gives you momentum throughout your workday to keep you focused and productive.
Keeping a To-Do list also helps you to see the bigger picture in your firm so you don’t get too caught up in the day to day. This helps to make the impactful changes that grow your firm.
Firm owners and partners that employ this To-Do list method report bigger wins in their jobs and firms. Today I’m going to give you the framework for getting yourself these big wins.
Start by Creating 4 Lists
One of the most important rules of personal effectiveness is the 10/90 Rule, meaning that the first 10% of time that you spend planning and organizing your work before you begin will save you as much as 90% of the time working on the project.
Don’t be discouraged by the initial investment in time required to get this system going. By properly planning ahead, based on your overall goals for your career and firm, you’ll be able to achieve results faster and easier.
Create a master list where you write down everything you can think of that you want to do sometime in the future. Make a list of all your projects; the big multitask jobs that are important to your future. You can sort out the items later, just let the ideas flow.
Your second list should be a monthly list that you make at the end of the month for the month ahead. This may contain items from your master list, as well as projects that have recently come up.
Third is a weekly list where you plan your entire week in advance. This list can change throughout the week but should feature 3 big goals that you’d like to accomplish in the week ahead. Take an hour to do this at the end of each week.
Finally, you should transfer items from your monthly and weekly lists onto your daily list. These are the specific activities that you are going to accomplish the following day.
Lastly, review your lists regularly. The key to the success of this method is to make (and keep) work appointments with yourself to review and plan ahead for the next month, week and day.
How to Make Your Daily To-Do List
Writing out the first three lists is simpler and less specific than the daily list. The daily list should be a formal schedule for each day.
From the highly reviewed book “Eat That Frog!”
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.
Your "frog" is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don't focus on getting it done. When you go to make your list, your most important and impactful task should be first thing in the morning.
List out 5 other 30-90 minute tasks you’d like to accomplish throughout the day. In the end you only want to schedule about 6 hours of work each day so plan the tasks accordingly. This gives you 2 buffer hours every day for last minute jobs.
Lastly, make a formal schedule, starting at the beginning of your day. This means put an actual time next to each activity (i.e.,Work on Smith engagement 8:00-9:00am).
Note: try to put the more mentally taxing jobs earlier in the day before your brain becomes fatigued.
When to Make Your Daily To-Do List
To make your day more effective, you should be making your list the night before for the next workday. This gives you two advantages:
- When you make your list the night before, your subconscious mind works through any problems on your list throughout the night. Sleeping on it allows you to wake up with fresh ideas and insights.
- It’s much easier to commit your “tomorrow” self to do something than convincing yourself to do it right now.
Laura Berthiaume is a frequent contributor to Intuitive Accountant and the co-founder of Email Stopwatch, (http://emailstopwatch.com), an email management tool allowing managers and users to passively track all the time spent in Outlook. You can reach her with questions at email@example.com