Getting from “To do” to Done with 4 Easy, Organized Steps

EdWhen I worked for an advertising agency as an art director, our entire team relied heavily on both the traffic and production staff to guide us through various project milestones. We each were assigned individual “to do” lists that were associated with successfully completing the client’s project.

The agency’s project accountability infrastructure was established and operated like a well-oiled machine. At any given moment, with insights gained from our project management system and daily face-to-face interactions with traffic coordinators and production specialists, team members would know what tasks needed to be done, which team members needed to execute the tasks, and how long it took to complete each component of the assigned project.

When I left the agency and took my first in-house job, there were no systems in place to help me focus on the many tasks that needed to be completed. In those first few, overwhelming months working in-house, I realized that I’d clearly been spoiled by the way things were done at the agency. Similar tasks that would normally be completed by someone else on my advertising agency team, fell on my shoulders — or at least that’s what it felt like at the time. I was overwhelmed by my new professional life in-house and the tasks that filled up my “to-do” list.


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With all the meetings and various tasks that need to be completed, I reached out to Emily Parks. What advice would you give a new, busy in-house manager who may feel like they are drowning in “to-dos” wondering, “How do I get all of these tasks done?”

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emily parksEmily Parks: Ed, I encounter that issue quite frequently with busy professionals. Many of my clients are treading water, drowning in the tasks with which they’re faced each day, week, month and year. However, there are some basic steps to help you burn through your task list, moving those items more easily from “to-do” to “to-done.”

When individuals are faced with any given task, we have four options:

(1) Do it yourself.
(2) Delegate the task by entrusting it to another entity.
(3) Delay to complete the task at a later date and time.
(4) Delete what’s no longer useful, necessary or moving towards your goals.

Determining which of those options might be best is done through a few questions:

  • Does this task move you or your team towards achieving your goals or are you passionate about it? If not, it might be what you can discard.
  • Does this task require skills that are possessed by you exclusively or can others complete the action needed in an acceptable manner?
  • Would another team contributor build skills or enhance experience by completing the task on your behalf? These answers indicate if this task might be what you should delegate.

Regardless of whether you elect to complete the task yourself or delegate to someone else, there’s one thing to remember above all others: Each “what” assigned a “when” is more likely to be completed. I have yet to see a calendar that adds “Someday” amidst the Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; therefore, any task that “I’ll get to someday” never finds time on my schedule. In other words, when something must be done, schedule it on a specific date and time, associating each task with a set deadline.

While items on your to-do list can be grouped by assigned deadlines, it’s important to get those tasks that must be done out of your head and documented in some form or fashion. Whether using paper or electronic tools, many individuals fail to successfully manage their to-do items because they have too many lists, all scattered about, which aren’t accessible when needed, don’t clearly identify successive steps, and lack the ability to prioritize, sort or filter.

For success in tackling your to-do items, develop a “data dump” of all your to-do items. Then, during each weekly strategy session, map out what tasks will be attacked on which upcoming date and time. You’ll have one, running “data dump” for everything to be done from which you pull what can realistically be done each day, developing one to-do list for each day of the week. Voila! Finally, it’s a genuine way to get more done in less time.

In-house managers: How do you currently tackle your to-do list? Which of these tidbits will you implement for better task management and enhanced productivity?


About Emily Parks
Emily Parks, owner of Organize for Success, is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers & the Institute for Challenging Disorganization as well as a graduate of the Institute for Professional Organizers. With a background in automotive marketing and college sports operations, Emily provides confidential, one-on-one consulting (in-person or via Skype) and team training, helping you increase efficiency, boost productivity, accomplish more in less time, quickly locate what you need when you need it and maximize your physical space for optimal output.


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