If you’re a daily To Do List maker you probably enter a lot of stuff in your day planner that shouldn’t be there. First, daily To Do Lists require seven times the effort and attention that a weekly To Do List takes. This redundancy reduces your efficiency because you’re constantly carrying things over from the day before. Writing and re-writing the same actions over each day is in reality giving yourself permission to put things off. That leads to the bad habit of doing it later that turns into procrastination. Or it simply lowers your self-confidence because it doesn’t look like you’re making any real progress.

The only things that belong in your day planner are your time specific obligations. These are the appointments you’ve made, or time allocations that you’ve committed to working on a very specific type of work and that you’re going to hold yourself to. Most of the things on your To Do List don’t have to be done on a specific day at a specific time so they don’t belong in your day planner. Just sticking those action items in your day planner on a day and time you think you might take the actions is cluttering up your day planner. The result is a lot unnecessary shuffling. Because when you need to make a real appointment in that time slot you have to remove this action item, and then randomly find another slot to stick it in before you can add the real appointment. All of that is just senseless activity rather than results producing productivity.

Keep your To Do List as a separate reference entity. Your To Do List provides one simple place to capture all the actions you will need to take, but you don’t have to take at a specific time on a specific day. You don’t have to worry about getting the actions on your To Do List in perfect order you just have to get them there so you don’t have to keep remembering them. Once you have the actions down then you can see everything at the same time. Each day you simply look at the remaining actions that weren’t checked off from the day before and prioritize the things you want to take action on that day.

Remember calendars and day planners are about time and place. The whole reason you enter information on a calendar/day planner is so you will be at the right place at the right time. You never want to use your calendar as a catch-all for a bunch of extraneous information. When you do that it’s harder to find later, and it’s harder to find what you need when you need it because there’s all this stuff there that shouldn’t be there.

Use the right tools in the right way and improve your personal time management. Your calendar is for date and time specific commitments only. Everything else goes on your weekly To Do List. Your To Do List is where you capture the actions you either need to take now, or will need to remember to take in the future. It provides a list of actions for you to work from prioritizing on a daily basis. Checking off the actions you’ve completed as you do them is rewarding, and demonstrates the progress you’re making on projects that may seem overwhelming when you start.

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