How I manage to keep a complex to-do list in check

Hands up – I admit it; if I didn’t work from a to-do list, I’d have to sack myself.

I’d be absolutely useless.

This is partly because I have a dreadful memory, but also because I crave organisation. And not obsessive compulsive levels, either, just organisation that rids my life of clutter and which enables me to see the proverbial wood for the trees.

Since I’ve ran my own business, my to-do list has been the most important tool I have at my disposal, and today, I’d like to share with you how I keep it in check.

I categorise everything

I use Omnifocus to manage my to-do list, and despite the fact it’s often a bit of a sledgehammer to my relatively simple requirements, the ability to categorise actions is something I couldn’t live without.

With categorised tasks, I need only take the briefest look at my list to know exactly which clients I’ll be servicing tomorrow, and that means I can plan ahead far more effectively.

I write notes I can read

I attend a fair number of meetings, and alway leave with several promises I’ve made. As a result, I’ve really had to brush up on my handwriting again, because I’ve clearly spent too long sat at a keyboard.

Whatever your handwriting tool and note taking method of choice (be it traditional or the curiously addictive Sketchnotes approach), try and get back into handwriting – it’ll benefit your to-do list management more than you might think.

I make sure I can take my to-do list everywhere

Omnifocus is compatible with my laptop, iMac, iPad, smartphone and smartwatch. That means it travels with me absolutely everywhere and enables me to tick off tasks and add to the list whenever I need to.

Again, your preferred to-do list might be of the notebook and pen variety, but that’s just as portable, so take it everywhere!

I tackle the big stuff first

For a long time, I’d leave the big tasks until last. The only problem was that by ‘last’, I clearly meant ‘never’.

Putting big tasks off is poor practice. We all know it, but we all fall into that trap at some stage during our working lives.

Now, I’ll look at my list, identify the jobs that are going to require the most effort and tackle them first. It’s tough at times, but that leaves the rest of the day to tick off those smaller, more satisfying items.

I give myself variety

The nature of my work means I scoot across a number of clients and industries every day, but that’s entirely by design.

I could just as easily designate Mondays to Client A, Tuesdays to Client B, and so on, but that has never interested me, because I know I’d quickly tire of working on the same thing for eight hours straight.

Instead, I ensure my to-do list is full of variety both in the client work it includes and the type of work I’m asking myself to undertake.

That way, there’s never a dull day in the office!

I enjoy every single ‘tick’

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s hard to describe how satisfying I find the process of clicking the ‘done’ circle in Omnifocus and watching as it’s instantly filled by the little tick icon.

Every completed action on your to-do list should be celebrated, no matter how small the task.

Do whatever you need to do; pat yourself on the back, dance a little jig or make yourself your favourite hot beverage; just make sure the completion of a task really means something. That way, you’ll crave the feeling again and again.