• Notes.

    From “to do” to “have done”: A strategy to improve job satisfaction.

    Simple steps to help you revolutionise your to-do list and really enjoy your free time.

Scheduling your work sensibly.

It’s Friday afternoon at the office. Your head’s steaming, you’ve got square eyes from staring at your monitor and all around you your colleagues are getting in the mood for the weekend. Your ability to concentrate is shot already but stupidly your two most important tasks of the week are still outstanding on your to-do list. You wonder what it is you’ve actually been doing all week. You stay at your desk feeling a bit annoyed at yourself. The bad news is that you’re probably going to be spending Friday night in the office. But the good news is that with a few simple tricks you can structure your work to make sure that next Friday you can head off to the pub with the rest of the team.

Woman at laptop.

The real purpose of to-do lists.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with to-do lists as such. On the contrary, if used correctly they are worth their weight in gold and bring calm to the working day. However, most people tend to overestimate the number of tasks they can complete in the space of a week. More often than not they forget the small things that come up during the week and demand their attention. To prevent the outstanding tasks on your to-do list from staring at you accusingly from the corner of your desk at the end of the week, you should pay heed to some useful tips on how to create the list.

  • Writing utensils.

How to write a useful to-do list.

- Create an overview: Grab your notebook, a piece of paper or some post-its and write down everything you have to do in the coming week. Don’t forget to include simple things like answering e-mails.

- Sequence and prioritise: Divide your jobs up through the days of the week. Make sure you schedule your most important task for Monday or Tuesday. Consult your diary: days with lots of meetings are not suitable for time-intensive projects requiring high levels of concentration. These days are better suited to going through your e-mails or making phone calls.

- Leave room for the unpredictable: Either schedule a slot every day for things that come up spontaneously or ensure that you leave time on Thursdays and Fridays for jobs that you have missed in the heat of battle.

You should now have a good overview of what to expect in the week to come. If you like a digital overview in addition to the analogue version of your to-do list, try out the Momentum browser extension. You can record your day’s tasks in it and tick them off once they’re completed. This little app also features nice pictures and a daily quote to keep your motivation up!

Writing utensils.

The reality check: the “have-done” list.

Instead of getting tangled up in your Facebook feed first thing in the morning and procrastinating over trivial things, get on with the important jobs straight away. If you can cross the first (and most important) task off your list by midday, the day will already be worthwhile. The most important thing for feeling genuinely productive is the “have-done” list. Write down everything you have achieved during the day in this column. Jobs that take less than two minutes shouldn’t appear on either list by the way: they should just be completed straight away. By the end of the week, your have-done list will give you a realistic summary of everything you had to get completed, and will enable you to identify time sinks and find new ways of dealing with them, or to justify the amount of work you have to your supervisor. Over time you will also learn the best ways of distributing your various tasks throughout the week in order to complete them as efficiently as possible. The best thing, of course, is that you can go home for the weekend knowing that you have finished everything. Try it for yourself next week. All you need is a pen and paper and about 15 minutes to concentrate on the planning. You will also be rewarded with a feeling of pride and satisfaction when you see all the other things you manage to get done as well. And that feels better than procrastinating.