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Tackling the to-do list

Tips from the team at The Clubhouse London

The joyous organisational frenzy many of us feel when making a to-do list is only topped by the satisfaction of ticking things off it. But often the to-do list becomes a dumping ground for all manner of tasks, from the urgent (‘respond to client’s post-meeting queries’) to the abstract (‘book a weekend away’) so no wonder we struggle to get to the end of ours. According to a recent LinkedIn study, 90% of professionals admitted they’re unable to accomplish all the tasks on their to-do list by the end of an average workday. Like many systems of work flow, a little structure can go a long way so it’s time to overhaul the to-do list!

There are myriad different apps available for to-do lists, such as Trello, Wunderlist and Slack, as well as plenty of built-in inbox options to flag things up that transform your mailbox into a living, breathing prompt, enabling you to prioritise tasks daily – but sometimes it’s best to go back to basics. Some people take the ‘small surface’ approach – that’s using a post-it note and only writing down the three to five most crucial must-dos of the day. That is the to-do list in its purest form, making the list manageable because it can only fit a few things on it. For others, a daily planner with the workday’s top priorities is ideal, with a further list for concepts and ideas that needs more space. Whichever form your to-do list takes, you will need to manage it, just like any other task.

Sort it into categories:
1. Urgent: things to be done today (eg respond to a client)
2. Important: time-sensitive but doesn’t have to be finished today (eg write the speech for the conference next month)
3. Don’t forget: lower priority tasks (eg to book that holiday or try the new restaurant)

Then block out times in your calendar to do the tasks from list 2 as they arrive – they are things that require time and concentration – while leaving gaps to tackle the things from list 1 that must be completed before you leave your desk for the day. Choose times of the day when you are feeling at your most creative/focused to get the longest, most demanding task done. Never let anything else interfere – and let your team know that you are not contactable during that time. Switch your phone to airplane mode, log out of your email, book a meeting room where you can work uninterrupted, and see your productivity soar.

This article was originally featured in The Informer. To read the full magazine, please click here.