We all make them, and some of us far are better at using them than others.
Lists are the quintessential stay-on-track productivity tool, in both their low- and high-tech versions: from reminders scrawled on your hand or a flurry of Post-It To-Dos, to the hundreds of apps available for your desktop and smartphone.
Part of most people’s everyday quest to stay on top of tasks and remember tidbits of information, the lowly list is your best friend on a busy day and your worst frenemy when it gets out of control and you’ve run out of that most precious commodity: time.
One thing is for sure, if you’re job searching, you have a lot on your plate. Especially if while looking for your next position, you’re currently employed, balancing childcare and work, or a full-time course load.
In those cases, mastering the art of the list matters, if it means increasing your productivity, feeling more focused, and reaching your goals faster.
So how to create smart task lists that really, really work?
Try IFFFT.com (if-this-then-that) to create and manage tasks and reminders.
IFFFT on your smartphone helps you save time and accomplish more. It can automatically take any emails labeled “to do” and add them to an iOS Reminders list, or copy “starred” Gmails to a Google Calendar task list.
Facing a task-heavy day? Use a list to identify priority projects set day-end goals.
It can also get your phone to check the weather and remind you to grab an umbrella, and autodisplay your daily to-dos the second you set out on the morning commute.
Leveraging Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and dozens of other popular social apps to keep you on track and on task, IFFFT lets you connect the dots between, and cross off, or cross-reference items from all the the nodes in your digital life.
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Take a close look at your schedule and see if it syncs with what you know about yourself.
Morning person? Get your second wind after mid-day coffee? Most focused in the wee hours?
Face your most demanding tasks during high-energy, peak-performance parts of your day, and align the low-stakes, repetitive tasks for the other parts.
There’s always more to do, but the satisfaction of scratching something off your list is real. Tracking your completed tasks may motivate and encourage you to get even more done.
Prefer an off-line list? Make sure you have a second copy.
The Todoist app visualizes your accomplishments, so you can immediately see just how far you’ve progressed toward a goal.
Likewise, there are plenty of apps that use your smartphone to record time-on-task, especially handy for tracking billable hours, and allowing you to document, then sit back and reflect on what you’ve accomplished to date.
Your lists: a custom fit
Of course at the end of the day, productivity is deeply personal – one tool or list-making strategy will work better for you than the next.
The bottom line?
When you have multiple deadlines, projects, and people competing for your time and attention, and not a minute to spare, don’t let yourself feel immobilized and overwhelmed about everything.
Instead, tame your to-dos with a smart list that reflects your individual workstyle and professional priorities. Now you’re ready to get the job done.