How to organise your to-do list
Advances in technology and marketing tools mean that it’s now possible for marketers to handle more tasks in less time, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less busy. Most marketers are constantly bombarded with a series of things to do; planning multiple future campaigns, analysing the results of previous activity and handling day to day tasks.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of jobs that need to be done and feel that you’ll never be able to complete everything. These are our top tips for managing your to do list and staying in control.
1. Make a list
Before you can start sorting out your to do list, you obviously need to have a list to start off with. Most marketers have both a master list, which contains every item that needs to be done in the long term, and either daily or weekly lists which break down which of those items needs to be done now. A daily list is also sometimes referred to as a HIT (high impact tasks) list. Items should regularly move from the master list to the HIT list.
The form your list might take can vary. Some marketers prefer to use a handwritten planner or notebook, while others prefer Excel spreadsheets or Word documents. Hubspot has a very useful list of many of the different apps available to help you create to do lists.
2. Have a schedule
When you’re planning out your week, some tasks may be best left until certain times or days. For example, copywriting or other jobs that require uninterrupted time for concentration are best left for days where you don’t generally have many meetings, calls or appointments.
Similarly, some times of day may be best suited for different tasks, depending on whether you are a morning or evening person and when your concentration levels are at their highest. If you work best in the morning, you’ll want to get your most demanding, analytical work done then, but if you’re a night owl, it’s probably best to wait until much later on in the day.
Interestingly, creative tasks are best left until you’re tired and your brain isn’t functioning as effectively. There’s a lot of research that shows that this is when we’re most open to new ideas and thinking about projects in a different way.
3. Set key tasks
Every day, you should have one or two MITs (most important tasks). These are the items that absolutely must get done today – often the biggest tasks on the list and the ones that are likely to get put off. If possible, start on these jobs first thing in the morning when you’re fresh and nothing else has had a chance to distract you. That may, even if nothing else on your list gets done, the really meaningful stuff will be finished and your day will have been productive.
4. Prioritise the rest
To handle everything else on your list, you’ll need to have some system of prioritising items and deciding which jobs need to be done now and which can wait. Rather than base this simply on which deadline is closest, think about which tasks will bring you closer to your overall goals, whether those are personal or professional.
The Eisenhower Matrix (pictured below) is one of the most common ways to prioritise tasks. It classifies jobs using two criteria; urgency and importance. We have a natural tendency to focus on urgent tasks, whether they are important or not, and leave the tasks that are essential to our success but not time critical. Prioritising your to do list in this way can help you clear enough time to focus on the things that will grow your business and your career.
5. Break jobs down
Some of the most important items on your list are likely to be highly complex projects. Simply listing your ultimate goal, such as “research new consumer markets” or “create launch programme for product”, is very vague and intimidating, meaning you’ll be tempted to put them off for as long as possible. A simple way to make these big projects seem more achievable is to break them down into smaller, more specific tasks.
Once you’ve accomplished the first step, however straightforward, you will have mentally committed yourself to the project and are much more likely to see it through.
6. Be flexible and don’t stress
However organised you are, there will eventually come a day when something unexpected happens, your plans go out of the window and nothing on your list gets done. Your computer may crash, you may get called into an emergency day-long meeting or you might have to leave work to care for someone who’s ill.
When this happens, it’s important not to panic – your list is only a guideline, not a commandment. Handle the crisis and then start again afresh the next day.