By: Abbey Pober
Monday mornings at the office can sometimes be daunting. You know you have the week ahead to tackle the projects and responsibilities on your plate – but how will you get it all done? This has been a question I’ve tackled at the start of every work week since graduating from undergrad. The answer, I have found, lies in my tried and true “to-do” lists filled with small, manageable tasks that roll up into the big picture of my goals for that day, week, month, or a specific project. On these lists you’ll find everything from “respond to email from ‘x'” and “develop fall event campaign strategy” to “fix spelling of ‘y’ on website”. The key to an effective “to-do” list is identifying what small actions must be taken to achieve your goals in accordance with your priorities.
Making A To-Do List:
To get started, try establishing a running list of all your tasks so you can see all pending work in one consolidated place. The format with which you track this list is a personal choice, and could be a simple handwritten list, a word document on your computer, or on an app/digital planner – whichever method you choose, pick one and stick with it (Cavoulacos)!
Once this list is created you can begin breaking it down into priorities for the week and then tasks you can realistically accomplish in a single day. If you aren’t sure what you can get done in a day, consider something like the 1-3-5 Rule to help you decide what to put on your daily to-do list. Under this rule ” assume that you can only accomplish one big thing, three medium things, and five small things (Cavoulacos).” Keep in mind, if you have meetings on a certain day or are in a role where unexpected tasks can be assigned to you regularly, your capacity to complete work will be reduced and your daily task list should reflect that. I add meetings to my daily to-do list to be sure I account for the time I’ll be away from my desk when prioritizing work for the day. It’s important that you recognize you have a finite number of hours in your day and the goals you set for yourself should reflect that.
Digital Tools to Help You
Recently I transitioned my handwritten system to an all-digital tracking method which had two benefits: I’ve reduced the amount of paper waste I create, and the digital format has helped me to prioritize and manage my responsibilities more effectively because I am able to keep my running list, weekly and daily task plans, and project goals all in one place. An unexpected bonus – I can share my digital planner with my boss who can see all the work on my plate and help me prioritize when needed. Below are some apps and tools I have used and recommend for getting started:
- Microsoft Planner (free for Wentworth students and staff with your network access credentials)
- Asana (free for individuals)
- Microsoft ToDo
- Excel/Google sheets
- Phone task/reminder app
So, why have a to-do list?
The benefits of creating a running task list and planning your work out by week and day are significant. First, because you’ll have a firm grasp on your tasks and priorities you are able to have informed discussions with your supervisor if they come to you with a new project. You can talk to them about where the new work fits in the context of your current plan and re-prioritize accordingly (Cavoulacos). Beyond this practical application, setting small achievable goals can keep you motivated in your work and on track to achieving your big picture goals (Wood, 2018). Your to-do list is a physical manifestation of your goals and a roadmap for how you plan to achieve success.
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Cavoulacos, A. (n.d.). Why You Never Finish Your To-Do Lists at Work (And How to Change That). The Muse. Retrieved from https://www.themuse.com/advice/why-you-never-finish-your-todo-lists-at-work-and-how-to-change-that
Wood, D. (2018, October 17). How Setting Small Daily Goals Makes You Achieve Big Success. Lifehack. Retrieved from https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/how-the-act-of-daily-goal-setting-makes-you-successful.html