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Accomplishing More with a To-Do List

But all things should be done decently and in order.

1 Corinthians 14:40 ESV


I am not an organized person, but I had to learn as a husband, father, and employee. One thing that helped me more than anything else was writing a good to-do list. My wife always started her day with a to-do list and I learned it from her. It is one of the best and most common ways to organize tasks and assignments so they are on time and well done. You may be familiar with it and already use one; but here are the basics of a good to-do list for those needing help completing their tasks or assignments.

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First, the night before, list out all you need to accomplish for the next week. In the margin put an A beside those items that must be accomplished the next day. Put a B by those items that need to be accomplished by the day after, and C by those items that can be done later than that.


The purpose is to use the list to force yourself to do A-level tasks first. They are most important. If you successfully finished them by the end of the day, you should begin B-level tasks.


Caution: B and C-level tasks can wait but certain parts of them may need to be done today. Break off those parts and place them separately on your list. Be sure to label today’s part with an A so you get that part done today, even though the final task may be completed later.


Similar to the above, one of the common failures of the to-do list is listing a difficult task or assignment as one item. Most people feel overwhelmed when they see a large assignment and as a result, ignore it because of its difficulty. Breaking a larger task into smaller parts and accomplishing only one small part gives one a sense of optimism for achieving the rest of the assignment. After difficult assignments are broken down into smaller parts, each part should be labeled as A, B, or C depending on its time importance. Remember, start and finish the A-level items today.


For example, let’s say you have a paper due in one week in a class. After you select your topic, write down that you will spend 45 minutes doing a library search for 10 or more references from which to write your paper. On your list label it an A task. Tomorrow, get that A task done as soon as possible. That is not a difficult step and gives you exposure to what the research says. Most importantly, it gives you a sense of accomplishment toward the completion of that project. The next day the second task would be to write the introductory paragraph and at least half of the first page of the paper. As more small steps occur day by day, by the time the paper is due, it is finished.


Do this and you will be able to move through the important “A” assignments during the day with little problem. Remember though, problems always arise. Don’t get discouraged. Substitute a different A-level task if the one you are working on blows up and can’t be completed that day.


I had a student once who was excellent at finishing her A-level items. At her work though, she had so many A items to finish that she never got her C-level items done until they became A-level items. She then had an inspiration. She made two lists. She worked to finish her A-level items before the end of the day. Then the last thirty minutes to an hour she would do the easiest C-level assignments to make sure they didn’t become critical items later. This gave her an extra sense of accomplishment and help clear out a lot of her little stuff while still being primarily focused on finishing the most important items. Many business people don’t answer emails till the end of the day for this same reason. Don’t spend too much time on C items or they will steal your time from A and B-level assignments.


If you do not use a to-do list, try this faithfully for a month. I think you will see many more accomplishments occur in your life instead of seeing unfinished tasks take up space in your head.


I think God will be pleased, too.


Blessings

Tom

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