As executive assistants, the number of things we have to do is almost endless and it's easy to get so overwhelmed by the vast amount of work we do everyday. Enter our fabulous friend, the to-do list. While some of us overlook the importance of such a simple system, here are some of the benefits of creating a good to-do list:
Writing stuff down helps our memory
No one is capable of remembering everything they need to do without at least jotting them down. Our short term memory can only store up to 7 things at each time, so if we have more than 7 things to remember, it's almost certain that some will slip our mind.
Letting something slip through the cracks is disappointing, especially when we know we were capable of getting it done. By creating a to-do list, you're essentially immortalizing your tasks in an unforgettable way - so long as you remember to look at your to-do list!
A Central repository of tasks & projects gives us a feeling of control
By listing out your tasks and sorting them according to priority or category, you can plan your day and flow of events to better optimise your time. You'll be able to see a clear outline of what's ahead of you so you can anticipate what's next, rather than jumping from one thing to the other when stuff pops up in your head.
Having a clear and concise to-do list also helps to reduce stress and anxiety as it gives you structure and helps you stay in control of your day. For example, when your executive unexpectedly drops by your desk with a non-urgent problem-to-solve, you simply jot it down and say thank you. Then, you can think clearly about how to prioritise that task in your list.
Breaking projects into tasks in a list increases productivity
We all have overarching projects to be done over a period of a few weeks or months and just diving straight in to these projects without planning or noting down the necessary steps is a recipe for disaster. By breaking down big projects into smaller achievable short term tasks on a to-do list, it's easier to delegate work accordingly and pace yourself.
Furthermore, completing your tasks one by one and ticking them off your checklist is easier than trying to complete them as a whole or multi-tasking.
Visualising your accomplishments over time helps in performance reviews
Lastly, with to-do lists, you can visually track your progress on your projects and through your day, week, month and year. Tracking your to-do's over time allows you to look back and review the things you have done in a broader perspective. Make use of the tasks you've done over a period and tie it in to your performance reviews at the end of the year.
Some prefer to use a pen and paper to jot down their to-do's, but we highly suggest using some electronic task management system. It could be a common one like Trello or it could more complex, like Asana. Keeping it electronic and cloud-based allows you to access it from anywhere and helps your easily look back over large periods of time. We recommend checking out Cabinet Plus, too, the premium version of Cabinet which is a to-do list customised for administrative professionals.
Before we let you go, one thing to note is that not everything that counts gets counted. Meaning, it is difficult to use your to-do list for everything. Some things are better done NOW. In that case, perhaps you ought to create a document called "Fires I Put Out" and add in the big ones to keep track of them over time.