Get More Done With a Simple TO DO List

A simple To Do List can filter the noise and distraction you encounter so you can focus on important priorities and get more done.

IT managers deal with considerable pressure from new and changing priorities that occur in today’s dynamic work environment. These distractions will negatively impact your team’s performance unless you do something to help you and your team stay focused on the important issues.

Our work environments get crazier and more hectic all the time. Guess what: it probably isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Technology innovation has been super in giving us tools to do so much more in our working lives and to access these systems from virtually anywhere and at any time.

The downside with all this “greatness” comes the fact that in today’s world it is hard to get away from the work, especially in IT. User needs and their dependencies upon technology have expanded and will continue to do so. This brings with it an ever increasing list of To Do’s that present major challenges for IT managers every day.

We need something to help us focus on what’s important and to eliminate as much of the “noise” as possible.

What I use is a simple Weekly To Do List. I’ve been using “my system” for 30 years since my early IBM days. It’s a very simple system that helps keep you focused in order to get more accomplished plus help ensure you focus on the right things, , , or you can call them the most important things.

Here is how it works 

I actually start with a Monthly Objectives or TO DO List that gives me an overall set of things I want to accomplish in a month. Recently, I’ve simply been putting it in a work journal shown below.

Every weekend I create a list of the key things I need to accomplish the following week, , , pulled from my Monthly Objectives List or things that help me complete them. These Weekly tasks are quite often more detailed and might include several “reminder tasks” to get accomplished in the week.

When I have my week sorted out, I rank the Weekly To Do’s in order of highest priority to lowest priority, , , or sometimes just in “A, B or C” priority.

If something comes up with a high priority during the week it gets added to the list in the appropriate position I think is warranted.

During the week, I force myself to focus on the top priority things on this Weekly To Do List. Quite often, the fun thing to work on is not really the top priority so my To Do List is always there to help me stay on track.

If something does not get completed during the week it goes on next week’s list if it is still important.

On a weekly basis, I also refer to the Monthly Objectives List to gauge how well I’m getting through the major objectives for the month.

Using this process does three important things for me:

  1. Provides focus and keeps me on track during the week. I’m convinced this helps me get more done every week.
  2. Reduces procrastination because I have clarity on what to do.
  3. Gives me a sense of accomplishment as I check things off the list.

What you will find is that this process is simple, does not require a lot of time, and it reduces a lot of the “noise” and helps you focus, , , and when you focus you get more accomplished. You will also discover that when you have clarity of what to focus on it reduces stress.

Let’s face it, juggling all the issues and needs that find their way onto your desk can be overwhelming at times. I’ve even seen managers “lock up” because they can’t determine what to work on when they have a heavy list of To Do’s. A system like this helps you cut through the chaos and focus.

My system started with pen and paper when I started my career with IBM, and I migrated to Excel spreadsheets later. Now, I use a journal for the most part.

When there is some “heavy lifting” requirements, I use a workflow system for IT managers called Priority Matrix that automates many of the things I had to do manually.

I created a To Do List template for the Priority Matrix System that you will be able to see on their web site.

Use a system that helps you focus on the important priorities that need your attention and you will achieve more success. The tool is not so important as the process of listing out your To Do’s and making yourself focus on what’s important.

Good luck and success in organizing yourself.

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