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Keep organized even with your To-Do-List @HBR

Amplify’d from blogs.hbr.org

What To Do With Your To-Do List

11:35 AM Wednesday March 2, 2011  | Comments (1View)

Last week, in A Better Way to Manage Your To-Do List, I wrote about the importance of using your calendar — not your to-do list — as your main tool to guide what you do in a day.

Transferring items from your to-do list to your calendar will help you make strategic choices about where you spend your time, but it will also leave you with the probability of a long list of items that didn’t fit into your calendar for the day. And that list will simply grow longer and more stressful day by day, a continued reminder of what you aren’t accomplishing. I call it my guilt list.

What do you do with those things?

I have a rule to handle those items: my three-day rule. It ensures that no item on my list ever stays on it, haunting me, for more than three days.

Here’s what I do: after I’ve filled my calendar for the day, I review what’s left on the list. I leave new items, those I just added that day or in the previous two days, on the list to see if they make it onto my calendar the following day.

1. Do it immediately.
2. Schedule it.
3. Let it go.
4. Add it to a someday/maybe list.

There’s one other list I keep and that’s my Waiting list. If I’ve sent someone an email, left a voicemail, or expect to hear back from someone about something, I put that item on my Waiting list. This way I don’t lose track of things I expect from others — and I’m able to follow up if I don’t receive them — but I also don’t have to look at those items every day or confuse them with things I have to actually do. This list is on my computer, and I assign a date and reminder to each item. That way I don’t have to think about what I’m waiting for or when I should review the list. I simply wait for the reminder and if I haven’t received the thing I’m waiting for, I’ll know to follow up or, simply, let go of the expectation of hearing back from the person.

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