Many of us, at one time or another, eventually have so much to get done that we pull out a piece of paper and quickly write them all down.
But how many times do you look back to that task list and it’s not clear exactly what should be done.
I’ve certainly been there.
Here are 4 tips on how to write tasks so it’s clear what needs to be done.
It could be that when you look at the item like “Report”, you simply didn’t write enough to remind you what you meant.
Which report? What did you need to do with the report?
Perhaps you start racking your brain trying to remember a deadline coming up that you may have forgotten?
Or perhaps you write “Christmas gifts” because you have to head out and buy those last 2 gifts, and yet … when you look at that task it simply looks unpleasant and slightly daunting.
This is because simply reading the task does not make it clear what the very next action is.
You still have some thinking to do to figure out what you’ve actually got to do.
So, to help improve your task list, it helps to rephrase your tasks as next actions.
Here are a few tips on how to do that.
Use action verbs
Starting your next action with a verb makes it very clear WHAT you are going to do next?
It could be draft, write, call, move, email, brainstorm, schedule, visit, purchase … and on and on.
Purchase Christmas gifts
Add the due date
One of the key things we are doing when we look at a list of next actions is prioritizing based on what’s most important or urgent.
It helps to add the due date to your next actions.
Draft report by Friday
Purchase Christmas gifts by Wednesday
Remember to be kind to your future self
We are often optimistic about what we will remember and so it’s important to err on the side of a forgetful self when writing down your next actions.
Try to thin about what your future self might need as a helpful reminder.
Draft year-end report by Friday
Purchase scarf for Miriam’s christmas gift by Wednesday
Purchase cell phone for Kwame’s christmas gift by Wednesday
Add any logistics specifics
Make your next action foolproof by adding logistics specifics so you’re not thinking about HOW to get something done or having to find something you need to get the next action done.
For example, if it’s a call you have to make, if the number is not one you’ve stored in your contact list you might want to add it directly on the next action.
Draft year-end report by Friday (pull meeting notes folder for 10DEC notes)
Purchase scarf for Miriam at Coco’s by Wed
Draft cell phone for Kwame at Telefonica by Wed
So next time you’ve brainstormed your task list, take a couple of extra minute and make sure that each item has a well-defined, and clear, next action.
It will speed up your ability to get things done!