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How to use to-do lists to get on top of your work

Organise and order your tasks

Keeping track of the schedule is hugely important. It is all too easy to forget to send an invoice as one job is completed and you dive headlong towards the next deadline.

Losing control of the cashflow in that way is bad enough but worse still, a disorganised manager could completely lose sight of a whole commission. Time management consultant Gerard Hargreaves is a great believer of lists. When working with British Gas on its biannual Time survey of SMEs, he suggested making lists as a top tip because it helps organise the tasks in your head and helps prioritise the tasks ahead.

Keep the diary up-to-date. Make sure that conversations with clients are logged and that agreed actions are noted somewhere prominent so that those actions do actually go forward.

Pollock has a page a day diary for just this purpose. “It was one of the first things that I did when launching on my own. It sounds a little silly but it is so crucial. Each day is split into hours so I can log meetings in the correct order and it has space for me to include priority tasks.

“I keep this diary up-to-date all the time, filling it in as I speak to clients. I keep lists of props that are needed and tasks to be done and I tick them off as they are completed so that, at a glance, I know what still has to be done.”

His words are also echoed by CIPD’s (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) Daniels who says that creating lists helps organise events in your own mind, regardless of whether you actually keep the list beside you through the working day. She also finds that “people gain a great deal of satisfaction from achieving listed goals and being able to cross things off a list.”

Again the answer lies in finding the solution that suits your character – some people prefer loads of post-it notes stuck around their computer and office while others prefer accessing a complex diary on their computer. Daniels says: “There is an enormous amount of fire-fighting that goes on in small businesses – keeping lists and being aware of what is needed next does help to reduce the stress.”

Creating lists helps organise events in your own mind, regardless of whether you actually keep the list beside you.

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