Now that you’ve learned to control your day more effectively and plan your projects, it will be important to develop a system to keep track of everything that’s bombarding you from all sides. This lesson will show you why it’s so important to write more down—then how to organize it effectively—so you get more accomplished each day.
Instead of using your mind as a “memory chip” your mind would be much more effective if you turned it into a high powered “processor.” The mind is a great organizer when it isn’t bogged down trying to remember everything you need to do, both at work and home.
The Master List recommended here is a hybrid of a traditional to-do list.
In brief, a Master List is a pad of paper where you will keep all the possible activities, notes, action items, etc., for an entire week. It is used in combination with a Daily List (a paper or electronic calendar). Here’s how to keep a Master List:
1. Only have one list: A Master List replaces everything else you are using—i.e., Post-it® notes, etc. It is a pad of paper versus a piece of paper. It should be a pad you will take with you wherever you go because your mind is always thinking of tasks and ideas. Your work and personal life all go together in one place, on your Master List. That way you only have to look in one place for to-dos, etc. The average person loses 45 minutes a day looking for things. If organizing takes too long you will stop doing it.
2. As thoughts pop into your head, write them down: The purpose of a Master List is to keep your mind empty. This ensures that you don’t lose any ideas and increase your focus and concentration. If you don’t have your Master List handy, leave a message on your voice mail.
This will help you think ahead because a traditional to-do list only focuses on the activities you need to do that day or the next day. Now you will be writing down tasks and ideas that need to be completed days and/or weeks from now.
3. Skip lines between entries: This way you can make notes and it doesn’t get cluttered. You should be able to find and read items easily, when you need them or when you’re transferring items to your calendar. The first word of each entry should tell you what it is—i.e., e-mail, call, to-do.
4. Only rewrite your Master List once a week: Each Friday you will begin a new Master List and only transfer those items you didn’t complete that week. Why should you have to rewrite it every day?
5. Save your Master List until the end of the year: After you write your new Master List, take your old one, staple and file it to use as “back-up” or reference to jog your memory and referred to for your annual review. Why not get the credit you deserve on your review?
6. Don’t prioritize your Master List: Since your day and priorities are constantly changing, your list needs to be very flexible. Sometimes you won’t necessarily choose a task based on priority but rather by how long it takes so it fits the time you have available.
7. The first word on each line defines the task: When you go to “batch” like tasks just look along the margin at the first word, (i.e., e-mail, call, to-do.) Details will save time and prevent misunderstandings. Be sure to make notes from phone conversations, meetings, and to-dos you agree to at a later time. Now add your personal to-dos to your list so you don’t forget to have a personal life.
“It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement.”