Effectively Using a Task List

“I’m busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger!”  I’ve heard that expression many times, and I’ve felt that way more times than I care to remember!  What about you?  Do you feel overwhelmed by everything on your plate?  A more important questions would be, Do you have a system in place to organize and prioritize your tasks?

Allow me to introduce a very simple system of keeping things from falling through the cracks.  Enter the Task List.

We all know how important it is to write our “to-do” items down.  However, we usually miss some very simple points that make the exercise less than optimal.  Here are some suggestions on how to get it right.

Keep Your Task List in One Place

Sticky notes are great.  I use them every day.  But they are not designed to hold your task list.  Many times we write down that which we need to do on any old slip of paper we can find.  Instead, find one place to keep everything, and work from that list.

If you prefer organizing with paper, your list could simply be kept on a memo pad.  However, today’s digital tools are worth checking out.  Between Outlook, Blackberrys, and iPhone/iPad/Mac apps, there are many electronic methods available for keeping up with all of those tasks.  Best of all, everything syncs, so you have your list with you at all times.

Prioritize Your Items

If we are not careful, we will fall victim of the tyranny of the urgent.  It is important that we carefully prioritize our tasks and work in order of importance each day.  Here is the system that I use:

Each task is assigned a letter: A, B, C, or D.  Each letter means the following:

A Tasks: Tasks that must be completed today, and can only be completed by me. These are tackled first thing – usually early in the morning.

B Tasks – Important tasks, but not rising to “A” level.  These will likely become A items if not handled in a day or two.  However, they can wait until the A items are done.  If needed, these items may be moved to a subsequent day.

C Tasks – These are items that would be great to complete, but the world will keep on spinning if they don’t get done immediately.  Many times, I end up discarding these tasks after they have hung around too long.  It is amazing what you can eliminate over time!

D Tasks - These are tasks that should be delegated to someone else.  When I do this, I make a note on my calendar to check back in with whomever received this item.  It is still usually my responsibility to make sure there was completion.

This post basically scratches the surface of effective organization of our tasks.  However, I hope it provides a good starting point for you.

Do you know of any other good task list systems?

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About Kerry Palmer

I am the Head of School at Trinity Presbyterian School in Montgomery, Alabama. I also conduct the Sanctuary Orchestra at First Baptist Church in Montgomery. I enjoy reading and blogging about leadership.
This entry was posted in Productivity. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Effectively Using a Task List

  1. Pingback: The Most Important Item on My Task List | Kerry Palmer – All Things Leadership

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