There is nothing like a good to-do list to motivate you and help you manage time and priorities. It is so satisfying ticking off items however small, and once you’ve ticked, you can relax!
Take care though – lists can also be a way of giving yourself permission to procrastinate. If you put all the easy and quick tasks at the top of your list, you may feel you are getting through tasks, but are you being honest with yourself?
Using Covey’s Quadrants is a great way to prioritising your list. It may take a couple more minutes, but it is time well spent.
In quadrant 1 you put all the tasks that are important AND urgent. Things where deadlines are upon you, and simply have to be done. They may be small tasks such as cancelling or making an appointment or sending an email about an event happening soon, or something bigger, like preparing the slides for a new business pitch.
In quadrant 2 you put in things that are important but are not urgent. For example taking exercise, spending time with your family, designing a new system for work, briefing your PA on a list of tasks or writing a blog that is due. Often tasks in this quadrant will move to quadrant 1 if they are not completed in a reasonable timeframe and so become urgent.
In quadrant 3 you list the things that are urgent, but not important. Tasks that are here would often be done first, and are the jobs you like to do. For example, checking emails and then responding immediately, checking Facebook for updates, responding to text messages, etc. Turn your mail off, don’t look at Facebook and you will be amazed how many tasks in quadrant 1 and 2 you can fit in.
Quadrant 4 should contain the tasks that you should avoid doing. If a task is not important or not urgent then they are wasting your time. Surfing the net, Pinterest, you all know the tasks that fall into this category!
If you spend more time doing the tasks in quadrant 2, your work-life balance will improve, as will your blood pressure, as fewer items make their way into quadrant 1!
If you’ve ever watched Masterchef you’ll have seen this form of list-making in action, as a contestant under severe time-pressure works his or her way through a task list for creating a complex, winning meal making best use of the time allocated. Luckily most of us never have to operate under those constraints, but the idea holds good whatever you have to do!
Writing this article was a quadrant 2 task, so I am off to check Facebook now!