Smarter to-do lists.

You have stuff to get done. Stuff that requires phone calls, emails, trips to the bank, the list goes on and on. So how do you organize your to-do list in a way that is helpful and easy to manage? Start make making smarter lists.

The major goal of a to-do list is to organize your actions in a way that is easy answer the question “What should I do next?” Lists that are nothing more than quick jotts on paper that don’t really capture or explain the task in a way that is meaningful.

At SpinWeb, we talk about to-do lists using this philosophy: Make the smart part of your brain tell the lazy part what to do. In a practical sense, this means taking extra time when creating your to-do list. Try these tips for smarter, easier to accomplish to-do lists:

Think Action. Have you ever seen a to-do list that looks like a list of random words?  Instead of single word notes, take an extra moment to add a verb to all of your to-dos. Instead of “Jim”, write down “Compliment Jim on his excellent jazz hand technique.”

Think Downhilll. It’s not that you are lazy, but when you are overwhelmed by stuff to do it’s helpful to have a clear next action available that doesn’t require mental energy to plan or stress about. Phrase your to-do in a way that makes tasks easy to digest and think “I can do that!” Good: Find cookie Recipe. Better: Find cookie recipe online at Kraftfoods.com.

Think Baby-steps. If you have a large task to accomplish, break it into smaller chunks. “Buy Paint for Living Room” may be a daunting task, but consider these smaller tasks:

  • Take sofa fabric sample to paint store
  • Select paint and buy paint sample
  • Paint sample section of living room wall
  • Fall in love with the paint color (or go back to the store and try again)

Think Team. Delegation is a difficult skill to learn, but often your tasks cannot be accomplished by yourself. When breaking down your tasks into smaller chunks, often you’ll find that you need to ask someone else for something small to keep the task in motion. Make sure to keep a reminder on your list, so that you can followup.

Remember, the to-do list should make your life easier – so take the time to make a smarter list.