If you are like many people, you love your To Do list. Research shows nearly two-thirds of professionals rely on their lists but if you’re not crossing things off the way you once used to, your romance may be slightly tarnished.

There are five critical ingredients to help you fall in love with your To Do list once again:

The 5 Cs of a World-Class To-Do List

 1)      Complete: Our To Do List needs to capture 100% of our tasks, commitments, deadlines and goals.

Regardless of how smart we are, our minds are not designed to function like a To Do list. Some things will inevitably slip through the cracks. We can only keep 7 (plus or minus 2) things in our working memory at any one time. While we may eventually remember most things, it likely will not happen at the ideal time.

 2)      Centralized: All tasks should be corralled in one central system.

We need to stop relying on piles, post-it notes and the tempting, yet unreliable “I will remember that” technique. We end up wasting too much time sorting through these disparate tracking systems. Even worse, we may skip the critical review and find ourselves jumping from one squeaky wheel to another.

  3)      Categorized: Our To Do List should be categorized.

We have different types of work (e.g., clients, team, business development, personal, etc.) and each category has its own list of tasks. Sorting our tasks by category helps us to prioritize effectively. We rank our tasks within each category, not across. Trying to compare a client priority to a personal priority is akin to comparing apples to oranges. They are different animals.

 4)      Committed: All tasks associated with our top priorities need to have a deadline.

Deadlines reinforce our commitment and keep us focused on our top priority tasks. The lack of a hard deadline is one of the main root causes behind procrastination.

 5)      Consulted: We absolutely need to consult our To Do list on a regular basis.

Otherwise we fall right back into the ineffective “winging it” approach. Consulting our To Do List is such a critical step, and yet often skipped. I would rather see you stumble on any of the above criteria over this one. Your To Do List is only useful to the extent that you use it.

  Your World-Class To Do list

What does your To Do list look like? Would you describe it as world-class? If not, then I challenge you to evolve it into a great source of pride.

As long as you capture the above five Cs, your To Do list can take on any form. Contact me if you would like a few templates. The key is to find a system that works for you.