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5 Ways to Improve Your To-Do Lists

If you live by your to-do list, use these smart strategies to make it better.

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BY The Hartford - 13 Jun 2018

5 Ways to Improve Your To-Do Lists

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

To-do lists should be an invaluable part of any small business owner's day-to-day productivity strategy. They don't just help you monitor your tasks, they help keep you motivated and on track. And they seem self-explanatory: Write down a task. Then do it. But, a to-do list can too easily take a wrong turn and become exhaustive and exhausting. Here are five quick tips to help you get the most from your to-do lists.

1. Get an App

Bad news, paper and pen lovers: apps are the best way to manage your to-do lists now. They're able to do more and do it better. They make it quicker and easier for you to add tasks, and they'll give you all the reminders and categories you need to power up your lists. Now, while I'm partial to Any.Do, there are a lot of these apps out there. So, do some research and testing to figure out one you like and will use.

2. Be Specific

Don't write: "Email clients." Do write: "Email three clients" or "Email Bob, Mary, and Ted." After all, how are you supposed to really know when you're done with "Email clients"? That's a never-ending task. So, give yourself specific, concrete goals to aim for. It'll make you more determined to get them done, and it'll give you more of that rewarding fuzzy feeling you get when you cross a task off your list.

3. Be Realistic

You're a small business owner, so I know you have a lot of things to do. That might make you feel inclined to put everything you want to get done in a day on your list. Don't. Be honest with yourself-because what you want to do is very different from what you can do. You're only one person, after all. And don't forget that a to-do list is a motivational tool as much as it is a productive one. Nothing is less motivating than seeing 20 things left on your list at the end of the day. You'll feel like you've under-performed. That will demoralize you. Create lists that ensure you're always succeeding, not ones that make you feel like you're failing.

4. Prioritize Items

Most of us can't put together a list of tasks right away in order of priority. Chances are you'll think of tasks at random. That doesn't mean you should just throw them on your list randomly. Your list should never be random. If it is, it'll quickly become disorienting. You'll have to re-read and scan your entire list constantly to figure out what to do next. Always order your list top-to-bottom based on priority so you always know what task to take on next. (This is where apps are super-handy, by the way.)

5. Celebrate Your Accomplishments

When you've reached the end-of-your-day, take a moment to really appreciate everything that you got done and crossed off from your to-do list. It can be easy with to-do lists to only ever think of what you must do next. But it's important to be proud of yourself for what you've already done. So, as your day winds down, and you're about to turn off your computer, have a look at that to-do list one more time. Take in all the tasks you managed to check off. Feels good doesn't it?

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