Management literature in relation to implementation of goals frequently centres on the creation and management of task lists.
There are also time management approaches that emphasise the need for more focused and simple implementation including the approach of “Going with the Flow” – natural rhythms, Eastern philosophy. More unconventional time usage techniques, such as those discussed in “Where Did Time Fly,” include concepts that can be paraphrased as “Less is More,” which de-emphasizes the importance of squeezing every minute of one’s time, as suggested in traditional time management schemes.
A task list (also to-do list or things-to-do) is a list of tasks to be completed, such as chores or steps toward completing a project. It is an inventory tool which serves as an alternative or supplement to memory.
Task lists are used in self-management, grocery lists, business management, project management, and software development. It may involve more than one list.
When one of the items on a task list is accomplished, the task is checked or crossed off. The traditional method is to write these on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil, usually on a note pad or clip-board. Task lists can also have the form of paper or software checklists.
Writer Julie Morgenstern suggests “do’s and don’ts” of time management that include:
Map out everything that is important, by making a task list
Create “an oasis of time” for one to control
Don’t drop everything
Don’t think a critical task will get done in one’s spare time.
Numerous digital equivalents are now available, including PIM (Personal information management) applications and most PDAs. There are also several web-based task list applications, many of which are free.
Task list organization
Task lists are often tiered. The simplest tiered system includes a general to-do list (or task-holding file) to record all the tasks the person needs to accomplish, and a daily to-do list which is created each day by transferring tasks from the general to-do list.
Task lists are often prioritized:
•A daily list of things to do, numbered in the order of their importance, and done in that order one at a time until daily time allows, is attributed to consultant Ivy Lee (1877-1934) as the most profitable advice received by Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939), president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.
•An early advocate of “ABC” prioritization was Alan Lakein, in 1973. In his system “A” items were the most important (“A-1” the most important within that group), “B” next most important, “C” least important.
•A particular method of applying the ABC method assigns “A” to tasks to be done within a day, “B” a week, and “C” a month.
•To prioritize a daily task list, one either records the tasks in the order of highest priority, or assigns them a number after they are listed (“1” for highest priority, “2” for second highest priority, etc.) which indicates in which order to execute the tasks. The latter method is generally faster, allowing the tasks to be recorded more quickly.
•Another way of prioritizing compulsory tasks (group A) is to put the most unpleasant one first. When it’s done, the rest of the list feels easier. Groups B and C can benefit from the same idea, but instead of doing the first task (which is the most unpleasant) right away, it gives motivation to do other tasks from the list to avoid the first one.
•A completely different approach which argues against prioritising altogether was put forward by British author Mark Forster in his book “Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management”. This is based on the idea of operating “closed” to-do lists, instead of the traditional “open” to-do list. He argues that the traditional never-ending to-do lists virtually guarantees that some of your work will be left undone. This approach advocates getting all your work done, every day, and if you are unable to achieve it helps you diagnose where you are going wrong and what needs to change.