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Make a Better To-Do List

Simple tips to help increase daily productivity.

If you feel like your to-do list is more akin to a wishful-thinking list, you're not alone. A 2012 global survey by LinkedIn found that 63 percent of professionals frequently create to-do lists but only 11 percent accomplish everything they plan to do in a given workday. Here are some tips to create a realistic to-do list that can increase your productivity and reduce your stress.

One List to Rule Them All

It doesn't matter whether you prefer a pen and paper or an electronic device, but pick one recording method and stick to it. Combine both business and personal to-do items on this master list, and take it with you at all times so you can jot down items as you think of them. Once you've captured an item, try to forget about it until the task turns up on your daily list.

The Daily 1-3-5 Rule

Either every evening or early in the morning, create a daily to-do list from your master list. Since most people are overambitious when listing what they will get done in a given day, consider the 1-3-5 rule: Include one big task, three medium-size tasks and five small tasks. Try to tackle your one big task before lunch, if possible.

Break It Down

If procrastination is an issue, it could be because your to-do list is too nonspecific. Break larger tasks down into smaller component tasks. Rather than write "Update marketing plan," write the specific tasks that you need to do to accomplish that larger task. For example: "Send out email asking for input from department heads" or "Research the cost of hiring an outside marketing consultant."

Pad Your Meetings

If you feel like you have a handle on what you can accomplish in a day but endless meetings are getting in the way of your productivity, tweak meeting length. Rather than scheduling a one-hour meeting, schedule it for 45 minutes, giving you time to take care of quick emails or phone calls in between meetings. Chances are your colleagues will be grateful to have more time to work through their to-do lists as well.


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