What is a to do list? Are you bombarded with a million and one things to do every day? And thats just for work, then theres home, kids, studies, chores, it goes on and on. People have often asked how do I juggle everything, how do I prioritise and actually do it, delegate or date it. My to do list is the powerhouse of . My to-do list is at the center of my personal workflow. Like you, I am bombarded with hundreds of emails and requests a day, they are everywhere in inbox, on the phone, and at my door. All of them want action now.
So a few years ago I learned the importance of prioritisation and keeping that prioritsation list updated regularly, kind of creating a daily to do list (but it must be action linked). It might sound simple, but I don’t know of a more important productivity tool.
Here’s how I make my to-do page my personal command center:
- Make sure your to-do list consists of “next actions.” This is the secret to getting things done and avoiding procrastination. You have to break a project down into discrete actions. For example, "Set out the strategy for Working Muslim" is a project. “Write first draft of updated vision statement” is a discrete action within that project. I try to create a bite-sized action that I can complete in a less than a few hours. If it’s going to take more than that, I break the action down further.
- Prepare your to-do page the night before. I like to do this toward the very end of the day. This gives my subconscious a chance to work on the items overnight, its amazing how powerful this is. New thoughts come out of your mind and you discover important things you had forgotten about!. I find that I am much more productive the next day if I do this. InshaAllah it also gives me a chance to hit the ground running, knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished.
- Review your to-do list first thing in the morning. Before I do anything else, I review my calendar and my to-do page. The calendar provides the “hard edges” of my non-discretionary time. These are the things I must do. My to-do list provides the discretionary items I will have to get done when I am not in a meeting or otherwise committed. Reviewing these items first, provides me with the opportunity to make last minute adjustments to my game plan. I also arrange these items in roughly the order I plan to do them.
- Do the most difficult 2 tasks first. We spend so much time trying to do the easy things often we end up rushing the important tasks and doing an excellent job of something that actually isnt that important. Once you have done these 2 important tasks- reward yourself and take a break doing something you enjoy inshaAllah.
- Stay focused on your to-do page throughout the day. I always have my to-do list in front of me. Find a tool that helps you to do this, you can use a notebook, the list function on the iphone. But the tool is really unimportant, the main thing is to stay focused on one task at a time, completing it and then go to the next one. When you’re to-do page is your command center, it keeps you from getting distracted by everything else pinging your brain.
- Add to your to-do list as items occur. You want to be able to get to-dos out of your head and into a reliable system for follow-up at the appropriate time. If they keep rattling around in your head they consume positive energy. You can use the tools mentioned above to do this, but again, the tool is not important. Use what makes it fast and effortless.
If you don’t have a to-do list for yourself, you can bet others do. The best way to create a to do list is to use DiscoverULifes RPM methodology, but there are many others that I am sure you can find. In my experience, the only way to stay focused on what is important, as distinct from what is merely urgent, is to have a list of things in priority and deal with the ones that will make most impact first (remember the 80:20 rule?).
Questions: What list making system do you use? How is it working for you? What do you wish it would do that it doesn’t?
Written by Saiyyidah Zaidi
Founder of Working Muslim.