10 Top Task List Management Tips for Increasing Your
Most of us know that having a Daily Task List is a great way to organize our time. Yet many of
us fail to exploit the full power of what is, pound for pound, probably the most effective time
management tool in the world.
So, here are ten simple tips to help ensure you squeeze the most from your Task Lists on
a daily basis.
1. Keep your Daily Task List ‘clean’.
It is not an aide-memoire or a dumping ground for your thoughts. All that should be on it are
the things that you are going to do that day. Nothing else.
So, when a new job comes along, don’t put it immediately on today’s Task List, unless it has to
be done today. Instead, note it down elsewhere, or add it to a Master List of all the jobs you have
to do and from there assign it to an appropriate day.
2. Stick to 'High-Value' Items.
Keeping your list ‘clean’ also means making sure every item on it is of the highest value
possible to you.
Completing lots of small, low value jobs may make you feel busy, but won’t move you quickly
towards your goals. If you put too many items on your list, you will inevitably become overwhelmed
by all the things you have to do.
You will also be tempted to start cherry picking those jobs that you would prefer to do, rather
than those that you ought to be doing.
3. Use Software Tools.
While you can manage the ‘productivity process’ using pen and paper, To Do List software is much
Not only does it allow you to sort and categorise in many helpful ways, it can also give you the
potential to synchronise with mobile devices. This means you can stay on top of your jobs wherever
So, find task management software that suits you and learn to use its full capabilities. Many
standard applications just mimic the written To Do list, but they don’t offer you any real
Instead, consider using one of the new era software applications that allow you to sort and
filter into ‘living lists’ of tasks that are most appropriate for the moment.
Making several phone calls one after the other puts you into ‘telephone mode’, which immediately
makes you more efficient. Similarly, it is better to file 20 different items in one go, rather than
doing each separately.
Again, the sorting and filtering capabilities of new software, mean that it’s very easy to
create lists of similar tasks.
5. Divide large tasks into smaller steps.
This makes them easier to do and creates the feeling that you are moving forward. The size of
these smaller tasks can be governed by the time you have available to you to do them.
One of the best ways to do this, is always to be asking yourself, ‘What is the very next action
I can take to move this project forward?’.
By taking this approach you will naturally focus on the most important and practical things you
can do and won’t end up with a list of random To Dos.
6. Accept The Fact You're Only Human.
When creating your Task Lists, recognize that you aren’t a robot and so won’t always be working
at your best.
Make allowances by reducing the number of items on your Task List if you’re having ‘an off day’.
Review tomorrow’s Task List the night before so you have time to make any adjustments if
7. Question Why You're Not Completing Tasks.
If you find yourself continually transferring the same unfinished items from one day to the
next, ask yourself why you aren’t completing these items.
Is it because you don’t have the information to take that action? Or are you just
procrastinating? We will often put off doing things if we don’t know how to tackle them in the
first place or because we feel the job is so big that it’s overwhelming.
Give yourself rewards for getting through your task list successfully.
Just small psychological incentives, such as having a cup of coffee, buying yourself a magazine,
going for a walk or ending the day with an indulgent bath, are just some of the ways in which you
can keep your motivation as high as possible.
9. Work against the clock.
Each of us has a natural tempo at which we work, and one of the obvious ways we can get more
done in a day is to increase that tempo by working against the clock for short periods.
So, if you don’t have one already, invest in a small timer, set it to 30 or 45 minutes, and work
flat out and without interruption for that time. If you find that you can’t maintain your
concentration, reduce the time or set it at just ten minutes and then increase this by five minutes
at a time.
You may want to experiment with different time periods – using longer ones in the morning when
you’re fresh, and shorter ones in the afternoon when you are getting tired. This ‘Pomodoro
Technique’ is best suited for solid chunks of work rather than lots of small items.
10. Start keeping a time log of your daily activity.
This will do a number of things. First, it will show you how much you are actually achieving,
and that’s probably much less than you think. This alone can be a powerful wake up call and show
you that there is a great deal of scope for improving your productivity.
Second, if you have an actual record of how long it takes you to do things, then you have a
fantastic resource when it comes to quoting on pieces of work for clients, or estimating how long
it will take you to finish a project.
Of course, if you want to be more productive, you actually have to implement these tips. So,
remember to use them regularly, otherwise you may end up to returning to the haphazard structure
that used to form your day.