Articles about task management and productivity

Write a Good Task List

In my opinion writing a task list is an art not science. Moreover writing a good task list is an art practiced over a period of time. In other words, you have to create a few task lists before you can learn to create a good task list. Based on my experience this is true in nearly all the cases almost all the time.

In my case it took me a few task lists before I could really create meaningful and useful task lists. A good task list is one that serves the purpose it was created for i.e., to help you manage your time and goals.

Keep in mind that the task list should manage you and not the other way around. In other words, you should not create a task list where you end up spending significant amount of time and effort managing it.

Of course, it is not just enough to create a task list, your job is not done when you create a task list; you have to be able to maintain your task list which means you need to create a maintainable, expandable, and flexible task list.

A task list should not be cumbersome to maintain. It should be easy to use and update. The following things should be kept in mind when creating a task list.

  • One of the things you do when creating a task list is to write down the tasks and more often than not it is advocated that you write down all the tasks that you need to do and that come to your mind and then eliminate trivial ones.

    That is fine as long as we do it but we have a tendency to be lax in following up on things. Consequently, the list grows so big that it really becomes unmanageable. We also have a tendency to fall into the trap of using the feature of allowing practically creating unlimited tasks in a task list.

    All of these cause the list to grow so much that it loses its identity as a task list and becomes a laundry list.

  • Another thing to keep in mind to make a good task list is to add descriptive tasks. It is no good to add a 1 or 2 word task.

    The task has to be descriptive enough but not more than a sentence or a phrase in a way that if you come back to it after some time it has to make sense to you and remind you exactly what you are supposed to do.

    For instance, simply creating a task such as “Call Bill” is not going to remind you to call bill about what but if you create a task such as “Call Bill about food and snacks arrangement for party” is going to help you out a lot.

  • A good task list is simple and easy to understand. It serves a good purpose to break down complex tasks into simple, realistic, and manageable tasks. This is an important characteristic of a good task list.

  • A key thing to keep in mind if you want to create a good task list is to prioritize the tasks.

    Not every task is the same i.e., tasks are different in their importance, consequence, or deadline. All tasks are not created equal. Therefore, it is essential that you weed out the lowest priority and long term tasks from the highest priority and urgent tasks.

    This helps you complete the tasks that are important first before less important tasks.

  • Another important aspect of a good task list is that it is kept clean and cluttered. It is important to keep your task list up to date by removing tasks that should no longer be on the list. That is to say you should remove tasks from the list that have been completed or voided.

    On the flip side if a new task comes up then you should follow good practices listed earlier and update the list by adding this new task. This helps you keep the list clean, up to date, and helps you focus on the valid tasks in the list.

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