10 Steps To Stay Organized & Kill The To-Do List

Frequently I get asked how do you have a day job while working on your side projects? I then share with them the process of how I stay organized and stay on top of my calendar. While sharing, I noticed that adding constraints or tasks allows me to focus on my priorities and complete my work.

This article lays out a framework on how to stay organized and kill your to-do list. But aside from that, you will learn how to stay organized in your professional as well as personal life.

Traditionally, people will keep a to-do list to prioritize tasks. However, it is common to then push tasks further back in your to-do list, which leads to a mental energy suck and causes unnecessary anxiety. For example, you may have a report that you told your manager you would deliver by a specific day or you received a phone call that you need to follow up on. It is important to not delay these tasks (unless communicated) or forget to follow through entirely.

If you know someone who has an endless to-do list, misses commitments, or vice versa loves life hacks and challenging themselves, please share this article. Feel free to drop me an email and let me know how it went for you or them.

Honoring Your Word

Staying organized is a start, but that’s only half of the work. Organization and prioritization go hand in hand. Here are the steps to stay organized without a to-do list.

1. Review Your Calendar & To-Do List

2. Bucket These Tasks

3. Assign Percentages To Your Buckets

Collateral Development: 10%

Prospective Client Research: 20%

Prospective Client Outreach: 30%

Prospective Client Meetings: 10%

Existing Clients Meetings: 25%

Team Meetings: 5%

4. Transition To-Dos to Your Calendar

5. Add Recurring Buckets Into Your Calendar

6. Use Email For Reminders & Snooze

When you are going through emails in your inbox (some of these emails may be tasks you emailed yourself), ask yourself three questions.

  1. Do I need to reply right away?
  2. Can I add it directly to my calendar and act upon it later today?
  3. Can I snooze the email for a later date?

Ask yourself these questions in order to prioritize your tasks. If you know you need to get to something in a month from now email the task to yourself then snooze it so you don’t forget or have it sitting in a to-do list that you will likely forget about. It’s okay to snooze a task more than once. If you notice yourself re-snoozing due to procrastination, add it directly into your calendar. Don’t keep pushing off tasks unless it’s not a priority.

With Outlook, you can assign unique labels to look at the email later or add them into a folder called Review Later. If you do so, make a task on your calendar called Review Later — Outlook, so you force yourself to act upon these tasks versus letting them go stale in your Outlook.

7. Stay Organized, But Don’t Get Obsessive

Word of caution, don’t obsess and live in your calendar where being in your calendar is starting to take away from actually doing work and knocking off tasks from your calendar. If you notice a recurrence needs to be adjusted to another time or adjusted in length, make the change. Use your calendar to prioritize and set recurring tasks to hit your goals versus using it to only plan ahead.

8. It Is Okay To Push Off a Task

You can always skip a task for the day. If it’s consistent that you’re skipping tasks, reprioritize.

9. Quick Tasks

10. Review Your Tasks End of Day and Sundays

Bonus Steps

Make a Weekly Accomplishment Document

Completing Tasks Ahead of Time

Personal Tasks

Project Management Tool — Trello

In Closing

Originally published at https://zachschleien.com on January, 2020.

Day Job: Johnson & Johnson / Creator of 18percent & Filter Off