How to shrink your to do list with two simple tips

If you have a To Do List then you like to keep track of the things you need to sort out, but maybe the list is a little too long. Maybe you don’t look at it regularly enough to chip away at the items on it. Well, all of that can change.

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Do you ever bump into someone and have a chat only to remember an hour later that you had something you wanted to ask them but forgot to?

Do you ever find yourself with a spare five minutes between appointments and use it to check Facebook, rather than do something more productive?

The solution to these is tagging items in your to-do list with the names of people or places where the to-do can be completed.

If you don’t have a to-do list that you use to keep track of the myriad of tasks that you need to get completed across your life, firstly how can you survive without one? And secondly, you might not want to read on.

If you’re still reading, great.

Tagging to-dos with people

If you are really on top of things, or if you really want to show others how on top of things you are, then your to-do list is not just a place for the tasks that you need to do (e.g. write that presentation, research that subject, buy that present). It should also be a place for things you are wanting others to do or things you need to talk to others about.

For example:

  • Speak to Jane about her upcoming talk at the conference
  • Has Neil given his response to my question about his time at our competitor?

The first of these is a to-do for you but involves someone else i.e. you can’t do it alone. The second of these is a follow up on something you’ve previously asked someone to do for you.

You might have a few things that involve Jane, and a handful for Neil, so if you’ve tagged them in some way to identify them as to-dos involving these people, means that when you meet Jane you’ve got a list of things for her you can deal with in one go when the opportunity arises.

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This is a particularly useful approach if you have line management responsibility for someone. You might not want to keep throwing questions at them during the course of the week, or it might not be appropriate to raise the question when you think of it and need to record it to bring up in a future one-to-one. Either way, tagging the team member with the to-do means that when the one-to-one comes around you’ve got a ready made list of discussion topics to go over.

Tagging to dos with locations

Another approach for chipping away at those todos is to tag them with the environment in which the to-do could be completed. By that I mean if you have a to do of ‘Call Mo to share the new client news’ then you could tag that as ‘phone’, and if you had one of ‘Sort the marketing cupboard to clear out old brand collateral’ you could tag that as ‘in office’.

The aim of this is that when you find yourself in the office with a spare five minutes you could look at the tasks tagged ‘in office’ and do one of them. Or if you arrive early to a meeting you could check the tag ‘Phone’ and make a quick call to get it done.

Getting more productive

If each day you manage to tick off a few of your multitude of tasks this way then you’ll be improving your productivity no end, and maybe even getting to a point where your to-do list isn’t quite as scary as it was. You’ll have a greater sense of achievement and feeling of control over your workload, and everyone else will know how on the ball you are with things, because you always know what to talk about when, and always get lots of things done.

I use Things from Cultured Code as my To Do List of choice, partly because it gives me this ability to tag my To Dos, but also because I can arrange by project or area, I can add to it from a variety of places, and I can schedule my To Dos easily.

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About Rob

Rob was a professional soccer player, and cinema manager, before moving into software development 20+ years ago. He was a founding team member at startup Ormsby Street, heads up the product team at Qudini, and speaks and writes on product, teams, productivity and communication.

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Helping people kick start their product management career at * Product person at Watchfinder

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