And, unless you’ve been gifted with a brilliant photographic memory and can keep your list in your head, you’ll probably do better with the second option we’ll be discussing here.
Stop struggling, get rock-solid
Let’s be clear, if you can’t memorize your prioritized to-do list with perfect recall you’re probably going to struggle keeping tabs on your priorities during a busy day. That is, unless you have a rock-solid system in place that will help you stay on task with what’s important.
Here are some tips for making the most of your busy workday using your digital calendar and paper planner as your primary tools for success:
Set your priorities on paper
You may not find setting priorities comes easily with all you have to do today. Yes, you may have written down your to-do list, but if you’re like most people email dictates your priorities. A message comes in and you respond, making the tasks on your paper planner’s to-do list a distant afterthought.
It’s difficult to see the big picture when you’re focused on your inbox.
This is why you should sync your Outlook tasks with your paper planner. It allows you to establish your priorities and more importantly maintain them free of your inbox’s influence.
Here are some tips for doing it right:
- Keep two lists: Outlook stores your master task list; your daily to-do list goes on paper. Always enter a task onto a master task list first (see this post on a two-list system).
- Label your tasks: It’s important that every task on your master task list has a category and due date, two keys for determining priorities.
- Make your daily list: Check your Outlook Master Task List and choose 3-5 tasks you absolutely MUST get done today. Then choose another 3-5 you’d LIKE to get done.
- Prioritize: Order the tasks by importance, taking into account deadlines and amount of impact on the categories in your life like work, home, family, or specific projects.
- Write it down: Put your daily list on paper, making sure you set clear-cut descriptions that will motivate you to get tasks done.
Take it on the run
Now you are armed with the distinct advantage of having a portable task list with clearly set priorities you can take to the meeting, to lunch, to the job site, to the client’s office… anywhere you might find yourself needing a reminder of your daily mission.
Here are some additional Outlook and paper planner tips that will benefit your productivity:
- Follow your destiny: Stick to your written task list. When tasks arise through email and conversations of your day, don’t let urgent emotions fool you. Only truly important tasks take priority over those you’ve already assigned yourself.
- Drag and drop: When processing your email. Drag task-related email messages into the “Tasks” button in the Outlook navigation pane. Be sure to create descriptive task subject headings.
- Keep it closed: Get out of the habit of checking your email randomly. In fact, experts strongly advise against checking your inbox until you’ve worked an hour. Your best bet is keeping email activities on a set daily schedule: once in the morning, once after lunch, and once at the end of the day.
- Block out your “power hours:” Make time for focusing on priority tasks. Be sure to reference the task name when you schedule it in your day planner page.
Have you found a solution to balancing a to-do list on Outlook and your paper planner? Please share your tips for success!
|Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org|