I’m a big fan of ‘to do’ lists as they are such a quick way to regain a sense of control, and a simple way to keep that way. Our brains simply don’t have enough RAM to remember all our commitments at work and home, and taking information out of our head and onto a list frees up the energy needed to focus on the task in hand.

Whether you keep your list in a paper or digital format is purely personal choice – both work, so use what suits your life and work style best.

But I still think many people might be reducing the full power of a list by adding items that are not really ‘to do’s’. I know it seems obvious what a ‘to do’ is, but I often see people record items on their list that are much bigger than they think. This habit can make it more difficult to complete the commitment on time.

Let me explain with an example. This weekend my partner decided to paint the front door. Now that seems a simple enough task or ‘to do’ – but actually it’s a multi-step mini-project made up of several different actions. Each action needs to be completed in a sequence, and takes up surprising amounts of time. Before ever applying paint, he needed to prepare the surface by sanding down the old paint, fill the scary holes in the door frame, make an unexpected trip to the DIY store for materials, apply several coats of paint and so on.

Likewise at work, a seemingly simple ‘Send proposal to Client X’ could be added to the ‘to do’ list. In reality that is also a mini-project comprising many separate actions. Information needs to be gathered, a brief taken – perhaps that’s a meeting to be organised too, ideas written up and formatted, agreement of others might be needed – all before the proposal can be sent.

This simple shift in task size will help you realistically assess what is involved in the commitments you make. By mapping out and then adding the specific actions necessary to achieve these tasks or mini-projects, you’ll make a much more accurate estimates. And when you know how much time is really required, you can block out time accordingly.

As a bonus, you’ll also know if you need to act earlier and less likely to discover something has been missed. And because you know what specific steps are needed you’ll be able to fit quick ones (such as a telephone call) into those little 10 minute gaps that occur unexpectedly during the day.

Author's Bio: 

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About Rosie Gray;
Rosie Gray specialises in helping her Clients master Time & Pressure, to increase Personal Productivity. As a result, they feel less overwhelmed, back in control & achieve much more of what really matters. So if you never seem to reach the end of your ‘to do’ list, return every phone call & even sacrifice personal time to catch up, download your free copy of her e-book ‘Seize Back Your Time!’ http://www.mosaic-learning.co.uk/sbyt.html