I’m a firm believer that how you choose to start your day has a direct impact on how the rest of your day turns out. A while ago I realized that I love making to-do list. It’s such a geeky pleasure but I know my to-do list lovers can relate when I say there’s an almost blissful feeling when you can cross off a completed task. I can be a bit of a scatterbrain so I found that creating a daily, to-do list really helped to keep me focused on the things I needed to accomplish.
For the longest time, my to-do lists looked like the one above. I actually used that exact format for about 3 years. It wasn't until I read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that I started thinking about to-do lists differently. The most memorable lesson I took away from the book was that successful people prioritize differently than most and there was a simple tool I could use to help me prioritize like them (essentially, a four-part to-do list). In my old method, I would list every single thing I needed to do that day, and pick out what was most urgent (or least painful first, depending on how I felt that morning). Needless to say, I wasn't making the most effective use of my time. Using the model below, I learned how to prioritize based on what was most important.
Initially, I questioned how something could be urgent and not be important. But think about how much time we waste on responding to urgent emails or phone calls that are seemingly earth-shattering but in the end turn out to be quite insignificant. It’s urgent to me if my failure to take immediate action will negatively impact the business or me. If that isn't the case, it can wait.
In my quadrant to-do list, I sometimes even go a step further and schedule out my important and urgent tasks from quadrant one. Allotting a specific time frame for each task sometimes helps to light a fire under my butt. Of course sticking to the schedule isn't always possible. You never know when you’ll be summoned into an emergency meeting or someone sends an announcement that there are free donuts and coffee in the conference room. So, I try not to worry about it too much and attempt to stick to the schedule as best I can.
So for the first 45 minutes or so of your next workday, try the 4 quad to-do list on for size and see how it works for you. I of course, from time to time still get caught in the “Let me see what’s happening on Facebook/Who just liked my picture on Instagram?” trap where I’m shamefully sucked into the black hole that is the Internet; “Oh look, talking kittens” but overall my to-do lists have been a Godsend. There you go. Let’s make moves ladies. Have fun crossing things out.
For more in formation on the 4-quadrant, to-do list format from "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey click here.