Boost Productivity by Mapping Your To-Do List

By | 2016-12-01T19:13:49+00:00 July 30th, 2015|Productivity|

I’m a compulsive list-maker and have tried using almost every kind of to-do list you can think of. And as much as I love crossing off a completed item, sometimes a traditional numbered task list isn’t the most effective way to plan your day. In fact, an itemized list doesn’t account for your schedule at all. If you’re struggling to get things done with your numbered sheet, boost your productivity by mapping your to-do list.

(Literally) map out your day

Making a list of fifteen tasks to finish by the end of the day isn’t at all helpful if you know you have back-to-back meetings and no time to get anything done. The first thing you should do is map out your day and then observe the blocks of time you have free for working. If your schedule is inconsistent, you might find it helpful to do this in blocks of an entire week rather than daily.

Get out a piece of paper and create a physical mockup of your workday or week, complete with how your time is blocked out. A landscape view tends to work best, with your hours either on the vertical line if it’s a weekly calendar or on the horizontal line if you’re working by day. Use markers to block off existing meetings or appointments in a bright, obvious way so available time is obvious. The simple act of being able to see your schedule in front of you (and not on a computer screen or on your smartphone) makes you feel that much more in control.

Fill in the blanks

Instead of trying to finish things whenever you have a free moment, make your to-do list less as a “list” and more a schedule. For example, block out time to work on a task or large project just as you would block out time for a meeting. This method works especially well if you like to break down tasks and assignments into specific parts. For example:

10-11 am: write up new client plan

11-11:30 am: reply to emails

12-2 pm: develop KPIs and tactics for new client plan

Although it’s ok to start with an idea of what you need to get done, focus more on when you’ll actually be doing the work—it’s proven to make tasks easier to accomplish and make employees more productive.

How do you structure your to-do list? Any tips you’ve picked up over the years? Talk to us on Twitter: @myturnstone or @officestylist.