Does your To Do List need a makeover?

May 22, 2012

If you’re like the majority of people around the globe, a day in your life consists of a never ending to-do list that doesn’t always get completed. According to LinkedIn’s latest study, professionals around the world use a pretty even mix of paper and technology to capture their daily tasks. We are also easily distracted and, especially if we work in law, chances are we’re not likely to knock off the majority of things on our to-do list.

At the end of the day, not all to-do lists are created equal and the quality of your list is tied to your success. So, does your to-do list need a makeover? Find out how here (right after the infographic):

Best ways to do a To Do List Makeover:

1. Make a list…and put everything on it:  Unless you’re craving the pleasure of the ‘scratch-off’ that comes with completing a task, it’s not likely you’re listing tasks like bathroom break, call mom, shop Gilt, and chat with Jenna in accounting, but the fact of the matter is there’s a lot of our day that we spend dilly dallying.

Most of us need a little down time over the course of the day to take a breath and stretch our legs, but it’s worth finding out if you’re spending an inordinate amount of time on unproductive tasks.  One of my favorite ways of shocking people is to ask them for one week to make a record of all the time they spend on on-work essentials.

10 hours, 20 calls and 15 to-die-for-sales later, it puts the reality of your to-do list in perspective.   You can have non-productive time in your schedule each day, but just be sure to add it to the list. It will quickly become clear why you didn’t get to that report.

2. Build an efficiency routine: Having spent some time on a farm in my youth, it didn’t entirely surprise me to learn that LinkedIn found professionals working in agriculture claim to be most productive: 83 percent stated that they regularly fulfill most of all of their planned tasks. The regularity of routine (due to sunlight, seasons and the fact that if you don’t feed the pig, the grass, the chickens… well, they die) is real motivation to get your to-do’s done and something those of us outside of agriculture can learn from.

With 26 percent of the professionals stating that they are easily distracted, having a regular list of tasks that need to get done each and every day will help not only keep you focused but also ensure you’re able to respond to inevitable diversions of your attention.  For example, if your boss walks by your office and asks what you thought of the latest industry news, you’ve already read LinkedIn Today and can thoughtfully respond; or if someone in your industry backs out of a speaking gig and you happened to connect with the organizer last week, he may end up asking you to come to the rescue.

Starting your day with a list of efficiency to-do’s, including: being up to speed on industry news, contributing to LinkedIn Group discussions and reaching out to key contacts on LinkedIn, is the key to getting the things on (and off) your list done!

3. Conquer the dregs: You don’t need to be an expert to-do-er to know the trap of the dregs. These are the things that you find on your list again… and again… and again because they are either hard, non-essential or are things that frankly, you just don’t want to do.

This is the part of our list that literally and figuratively hold us back from the satisfaction and motivation that come from a clean slate. Write down your dreg list and divide it into the three categories. For the ‘hard’ pile, go to LinkedIn Answers and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and ask for insight. You don’t need to do it alone, and hard problems are most often solved through group-think – or rather, by someone who’s also endured the same ‘hard’ problem and knows how to solve it.

The non-essential pile should be reviewed by a trusted colleague (this list more often than not really should be in ‘hard’ or ‘don’t want to do.’) If in fact, these are non-essential tasks, so take them off. The ‘don’t want to do pile’ is my favorite. The key to this list is delegation.   Do an Advanced People Search to find someone to take on the task. Whether it ends up being a willing intern or new vendor, your to-do list just got shorter!