The art of the to do List

You are working on a project managed by someone in your team who you call a project manager or a coordinator and you trust him to manage your workload, your priorities, guide you to produce your deliveries on time and it is probably what he will do. His goal is driven by motivations very far from your own.

This is a problem!

The project manager has made a plan to ensure the budget and the due date of your project are both on track. Your job is to stick to this plan, whenever this is possible or not. Most of the time it won’t be possible, as you realize your project was designed to beat the competition, in order to be completed in the lesser possible time, with the less possible resources (that would be you). At the end, you are the one who is going to pay with your sweat. You are the cannon meat!

Make daily to-do lists while working on a project

Rather than being frustrated by an undoable plan, why don’t you just make your every day to do list with a content that you can compromise yourself to execute: your own personal plan?  It would certainly help you overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed, reduces anxiety and be more productive and focused throughout the day.

This would help you achieve the following:

  • Keep focus on what you actually can do,
  • Avoid dispersion,
  • Add tasks that the project plan did not foresee, and justify time,
  • Justify deviation to your hierarchy,
  • Report your working time based on the items on your list.

To-do lists limitations

To-do lists have very strong limitations when it comes to working efficiently. Remember they are just a tool and you will still have to do the job. Having long to-do lists can feel overwhelming and will probably lead to procrastination over time. They also give the filling your job is never complete as new items are added all the time, sometimes faster than the one crossed from the list.

Items on a list are also not prioritized. The general feeling is that you take the list from top to bottom and execute all tasks sequentially no matter their relevance. This could be dramatic for your management.

It is reported that only 15% of the items on a list will be executed. In fact, the longer they remain uncrossed on your list, the lesser chance they have to be completed.

Here are 5 tools that could help you.

Wunderlist (free) is a task management application. It allows users to manage their tasks from a smartphone, tablet, computer, and smartwatch. Wunderlist has recently been bought by Microsoft and will be discontinued to evolve into some other application.

Do it later by Asus is a task and to-dos app for Android. The name itself sounds like procrastination but it’s very effective and the widget lets you know on front-page what you could be missing. A strong feature of this app is that you can create a task by sharing content from other apps.

Remember the milk comes on many support such as Android phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads, Web app under Windows, Macs or Linux and even Blackberry 10. Works offline and synchronize all your installations. It also integrates your Gmail and Twitter account. Free accounts have access to basic functions. You will need to be to unlock some other function such as for instance subtasks.

Microsoft Outlook has also the ability to create lists of tasks. This does not seem obvious at first glance, but most of your workload is created by emails, provided you are working in an office environment. It looks natural for outlook that email can be transformed into tasks.

Post-its. No need for fancy software, a post-it or a simple sheet of paper can be the most suited tool for you. Let’s face it, it is portable, works everywhere even if you are in the wood or at the beach. It’s technology free, not all of us is proficient with techs. It also probably does the job as well as the most sophisticated software. If you are not sure you can cope with to-do lists, this is a tool, to begin with.