Event Management

The Secret Power of To-Do Lists

Skift Take

Event planners love a list. What is the secret power of to-do lists, why they are so beneficial and how can you get the most out of them?

Are to-do lists obsolete, or essential? Loved, loathed or misunderstood?

The age old to-do list is not a new tool and you will often find them seeping into your personal life as well as your professional one. However, with recent technology improvements it can feel like to-do lists are too “old hat” and you’re discouraged from using them. But this could be hurting your productivity, time management and problem solving skills, among other things. The longevity of the to-do list is because it works. However there are a few things you need to know to get the most out of them.

How To Write An Effective To-Do List

To use a to-do list to its full potential you first need to know how to construct one that is going to allow you to meet your goals and targets.

Choose your platform – Whether it’s on a tablet, smartphone app, piece of paper or in your calendar, pick the platform that is most suited to you. Many find that physically writing a to-do list down helps to make it more memorable and “real”, whereas others feel that a digital copy is more convenient and easily updated. Either way pick your platform to suit you and stick to it.

Consistency – It is not going to happen overnight and sometimes you can forget to look at your list but ensure that you remain consistent to turn it into a productive work habit because it can help you to think laterally in the future when it comes to problem-solving and staying productive.

Be Realistic – You know how long you have in the day to dedicate to tasks so try to remember this while writing your list. Don’t include more than 8 items on the list because you are less likely to get it done and it can be more daunting the longer it is, be realistic about the amount of time and commitment you have so you don’t over stretch your list.

Make Two – Separate your list into a “master” and “daily” list so that you have all of the tasks that need to be completed that week, but not necessarily that day, as well as those which are of higher priority. This will help you to remember the bigger picture without burdening your workload and making your daily list too long or intimidating. A master list can also avoid that end of week panic when you realise there was a task that you have been putting off and it has suddenly become priority number one!

The Ivy Lee Method

This productivity hack transformed how tasks were organized back in 1918 and since it is still completely useful and relevant today it shows how useful vintage really is. The Ivy Lee method involves:

  1. Taking 15 minutes at the end of your working day, each day.
  2. Write down 6 (only) tasks that are the most important to complete tomorrow
  3. Prioritize these from 1-6 and write them in this order.
  4. First thing in the morning the following day, focus on your first task only until you have finished and worked through it and then move onto task two.
  5. Continue like this throughout the day through your list.
  6. If you have anything left unfinished at the end of the day, move it over to tomorrow’s six tasks and repeat.

While this sounds surprisingly simple, it helps to keep you focused and avoid the distractions that often come with to-do lists where you will choose to do the easiest off the list rather than the most important. This also forces you to be vigilant about priority and what ACTUALLY needs to get done during a day, since you only have 6 tasks on your list. If you get through your list with time to spare then revert to your master list for the week and complete some tasks from there to keep up productivity.

Why To-Do Lists Are Beneficial (Even If You Don’t Complete Them)

To-do lists aim to help you start on your tasks, this can often be the hardest part, especially in the morning when you are more prone to procrastinating. Knowing where to start and giving yourself focus for the day very early on can keep your eyes on the prize and allows you to stay motivated, even if you don’t get to the end of your list, you started tasks you have been putting off and that is a plus!

Also, writing lists can help you to subconsciously sort through information that you are presented with, for example, thinking about marketing ideas for a large event might be on your to-do list and throughout the day you are presented with inspiration or notice things that could be relevant, ideas can seem to pop up at the most unusual times. This is because your brain knows what you are looking for and is working behind the scenes.

This is also the basis for improving problem-solving, particularly for event planners or professionals who have to organize and deal with many details that can often slow your workload down. Writing a to-do list the night before can help to think through potential issues and find the solutions before you have even started the task or give you ideas of how to deal with them. If you have ever had an “Aha” moment in the shower, in your coffee break or during your commute it is because you are thinking through a problem or an idea beforehand and a to-do list simply starts this process sooner making you more efficient too!

In another aspect, keeping your focus and prioritizing in a to-do list can really highlight the non-essential, time sucking tasks and then help you to determine how best to streamline them to avoid time-wasting. You may find that your list eliminates the need to do some of these tasks altogether which will find you more time to spend on other aspects.  

Pro Tips For To-Do Lists

If you have ever written a to-do list and not followed it through then these tips can help keep you on track and take your list seriously to get the most out of it.

Add An Easy One – If you are feeling overworked or stressed then add a low-priority and easier task to your list, it may not follow the Ivy Lee method and it certainly shouldn’t happen every day, but it will help you to avoid burnout, feel more accomplished and will motivate you for the rest of the day so you don’t feel so swamped.

Put The Time In – It might seem counterintuitive to spend time, planning your time with a to-do list but simply spending 10-15 minutes at the end of each day can make a real difference. Not only does it make things clearer in your mind but it helps your focus, both at work and subconsciously meaning you are more likely to achieve your goals and list in the morning. Plus, spending time on your to-do list will help you prioritize and get the specifics down so that you aren’t setting yourself unreasonable targets and you will end each day feeling like you have accomplished something, no matter how far you have gotten with your list.

Be Specific – Writing “finish project” does not equate into what actually needs doing and the individual tasks that are required, this is a goal rather than a to-do list item and it isn’t an accurate representation of how much time it is going to take which means you will underestimate it. Specificity helps to problem solve, deal with tasks effectively and helps you to think things through in smaller, more manageable chunks which also helps to break up long-term projects, keeping you interested and motivated.

Send It To A Friend – Sending your to-do lists to a friend helps you to hold yourself accountable, particularly if the friend is a colleague or someone in your team as they are expecting you to get the work done and it motivates you to meet your targets.

Collaborate – Working in a team has its benefits and there is nothing to stop you using to-do lists to stay motivated and effective as a larger group. Adding digital lists to shareable documents so that you can share the workload and choose tasks from the list to work towards a common goal can help keep everyone focused and improves productivity for bigger events or projects. You may also find that friendly competition motivates the team further to complete tasks off of the list which can lighten your own workload.

Time Regular Tasks – If you have a daily task that you know you are going to be doing a lot of and always ends up on your list, time it. You will be able to tell whether you work better on it at different times of the day, for example when you are fresh first thing or straight after lunch. This helps to improve productivity and efficiency and will allow you to schedule it in for the optimum time, making your workload more enjoyable.

In Conclusion

As you can see you shouldn’t discount a to-do list because even creating one helps to organize your thoughts and sets you up for success every day to meet your goals. Whether you manage to complete the whole list every day or not, just the habit and act of writing a list gives you the power to boost efficiency, time management, productivity and problem-solving skills which in an eventprof is an essential. Hopefully our pro tips can also assist you in the early stages of sticking to your lists. If you are looking for more ways to be productive, why not check out our 25 borderline genius tactics to get things done.