Creating Lists to Manage Projects and Prioritize Tasks

Creating Lists to Manage Projects and Prioritize Tasks


The Power of Lists

Creating lists is a powerful and underutilized technique to manage projects and prioritize tasks in order to maximize your time, gain efficiency, and achieve focus. Too often we spend our time working on multiple projects, doing a little on each, and never feeling like we are moving forward, but always feeling as though we are spinning our wheels.

You can use lists to help you overcome that feeling of running in circles by organizing your thoughts and time and setting priorities to focus you and get you moving forward in a positive way.

List Building Tools

While you can build lists using a Word document, or Microsoft One Note, I have found that there are a number of more effective note taking and list building tools you such as Google Keep, Evernote, and Workflowy. These tools offer more robust features such as syncing between multiple devices, the ability to easily share with others, and the ability to organize multiple lists under specific notebooks.

Check out my video tutorial on using Evernote to create lists here.

Whatever tool you use make sure that you keep a list for each project that you are working on and that you keep them stored in one location where you can easily access each. Also, keep one master list that helps you to keep focused on each project and that sets clear priorities for each project you are working on.

Just Get it Written Down

When building your list don’t worry at first about setting priorities. Just write down all the things you need to accomplish on each individual project within each list. Once you have all your priorities listed out you can go back later and rearrange them in logical order as to level of priority.

I like to use numbered lists because it is easy to go back and add a priority, or move the order around and get a quick visual of how many items I have and their importance by number.

As I complete items on my list I like to strike them out. I recommend leaving items on the list, striking them out, and moving them down the list when complete rather than just deleting them when they are complete. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, it gives me a record of what I accomplished in case I need to go back and see what has been done. It might also be a good idea to put a date on the item when it is completed so you know when it got done. Second, if you have a performance management system, or need to report to your manager where you are at on a given project, you will need facts to show what you accomplished during the year. You can go back and use the items on your list to help give you those facts. Third, you may need to know what items you did on this project for some future project as a reference so you don’t forget anything that is essential. A list is a great reference for future projects.

You can also create sub-lists under numbered items in your list if a task has multiple little tasks that have to be accomplished in order to get the bigger task accomplished.

Putting due dates next to list items can also be helpful. You can copy the list item and add it as a Google or Outlook calendar item and then setup reminders for accomplishing it.

If you use an app such as Evernote or Google Keep you can share your list with other members of a team that allow you to designate responsibility for items to all team members and allow them to add notes and complete items on the list keeping everybody on target.

The Habit of List Building

List building once formed into a consistent habit helps maintain focus and give direction to your everyday work. By creating a prioritized list, you can be sure that you will put your energies to what is most important because you have it written down in front of you. You won’t waste your time trying to decide between multiple priorities because you will have already made a conscious decision as to what tasks are most important and in which order to accomplish them. Lists also give you flexibility to add, and re-prioritize, when new priorities present themselves. Lists also give you a place to track your progress and show where you achieved success.

Make list building a habit to get you focused, keep you on task, and remind you of what you have accomplished. By starting today, you can gain time, confidence, and remove the chaos from your day.

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