The new to-do list

By Alexandra Pickel | March 24, 2014

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Alexandra Pickel

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For other positions within the agency, there always seems to be something “new” out there. Whether it’s a new web application framework, an update to design software, or even video editing software or techniques. Our developers and designers have to know the latest and greatest technology, learn it, and keep up with it.

But for my role, the good old standbys of email (I guess at one point this was new), a notepad, and a pile of as-brightly-colored-as-possible Post-Its are the tools I rely on each day. I think most account executives would agree that the to-do list is our most important tool for staying on top of everything.

In the absence of technological advances in pen and paper (thank goodness), it’s up to me to find a better way, and I think maybe I have. I recently read an article on to-do lists, that said in today’s work environment, they have become somewhat obsolete. Why? Because we put too many items on them. The article suggested that we put no more than 3 items on our to-do list on any given day. And more than that, narrow down the tasks to the first task of each item on that list. That first task actually becomes the to-do; it flows from there.

It seems so counterintuitive — less on my list to get more done? How could that possibly work? And what about all the other stuff I am not getting to?*

Well, I tried it, and guess what? It works.

Not only did I complete my entire to-do list, but I did each job thoroughly, giving it the attention it deserves. This alone lead to a lot less hassle, back and forth, revising and re-working later on. And, I had plenty of room in my day for those requests, questions, and emergencies that never fail to crop up. Here too, I had the time needed to get the job done right the first time.

The beauty of my new to-do list is that it forces me to prioritize. What REALLY has to get done today? That goes on the list. Those other tasks don’t. And what I’ve noticed is that those tasks that used to end up moving from day-to-day-to-week usually: a. don’t need to get done at all because they have sorted themselves out, or b. are part of a bigger project that gets completed when and where they should.

Each night I still get a little bit of anxiety when I write out my list, but I hold myself to the 3-item limit, and am loving the increased productivity.**

*I think my favorite part about the article was that you could have a side list of the little nigglers you don’t want to forget about. PHEW. At least they have a home, even if I never visit them there.

**Confession, I allow myself up to 5 items, because…well I’m not that great at adopting new “technologies” sometimes. Actually 6 items…one day I just needed 6. But I didn’t get them all done.

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