To-do lists can be very useful to drive yourself to get things done if you’re using them right. As a COO it’s important to stay on task and get everything done. You don’t want to lose track of anything, so you probably have a to-do list sitting on your desk.
The idea of writing a to-do list seems simple, right? You just write whatever you need to get done down on paper and you’re good. Not if you want to actually get it all done.
Here are some strategies for making to-do lists that you’ll actually get through because, as a COO, you need to.
Don’t Keep Adding
Don’t get stuck in a constant cycle of adding stuff to your list, causing it to grow longer and longer until it’s too daunting to ever complete. If anything, start crossing stuff off that doesn’t need to get done yet.
“Here’s a terrifying (but strangely comforting) fact: A whopping 89% of people don’t regularly finish their daily to-do lists.” – The Muse
A COO needs to know how to prioritize. If it won’t have an impact on sales going up, profits going up, or costs going down—stop doing it. It doesn’t need to be on that list.
The Top Five
Instead of constantly adding things to an increasingly long list, each morning or night before, sit down and write the top five things you need to get done that day.
“If your to-do list is going to help you focus on your most important work, you’ll need to decide now what your most important work is.” – Huffpost
Once you’ve done that, start working on number one until it’s done. Then move on to number two and so forth. As a COO, if you can be diligent and stay focused using this age-old method, you and your team will grow during an upswing or downturn in the economy
The Downfall of Long Lists
Long lists look intimidating and therefore decrease your drive to get everything on that list done because when it’s long, it seems far more impossible. What’s the point in even trying when you know you’ll never complete that list? That’s why you need small, but achievable lists, like the aforementioned top five.
“We waste time on menial chores and tasks just to have a sense of accomplishment. Over time, this makes us much less effective at our job. Truly successful people find a way to outsource many of these less strategic tasks.” – Forbes
The shorter the list, the easier it is to trick your brain into thinking it’ll be easy to get it done. Maybe they’re not easy, but when your to-do list seems easy and straightforward, it actually does help to increase productivity and get things done far more quickly and easily than if it was in a list of tasks a page or two long.
The 80/20 Rule
We all know and accept that eighty percent of the results come from twenty percent of the work. I like to use that as a way to focus on myself. For example, if you only had two hours a day to get work done, what would you want to get done right away? Do you know what that activity might be? Okay, do that, and that alone. Your to-do list doesn’t have to belong if you can get a large chunk of the work done in one task.
“Just being confident about what needs to get done does increase the chances of it actually getting done.” – Cameron Herold
Imagine if for eight hours a day you just worked on those crucial tasks versus focusing on the numerous other items that spring from out of nowhere each day. Adding those little tasks to your to-do list detracts from the tasks that’ll actually get eighty percent of the work done.
COOs need to know how to prioritize and a strategic to-do list helps with that immensely. Most importantly of all, that to-do list shouldn’t belong. Short and sweet is what gets the work done.
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2010 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.