Use daily checklists

Lists can be useful or a waste of time. Some people write lists of things they need to do, and seem to think that by writing the list their jobs will do themselves.

Students who write out immaculate revision timetables and lists of topics to be studied are a good example of this. They feel that by writing these they are doing something constructive about passing their exams, when in fact they are wasting what revision time they have.It is completely appropriate to plan ahead for a stressful event, but unless you take action on the basis of those plans you are storing up failure.

The same applies when making a checklist to streamline the day ahead. A checklist is a great way to use time effectively and prevent important jobs from being forgotten, but only if you act on them. Writing a list you never look at is pointless.

At the end of a day take five minutes or less to think about what you must do the following day. You may be tired, but do it then or you will not do it at all. Write down what you feel has to be done, and be ruthless and realistic about it.

This does not have to be related to work – it may be getting to a school play or remembering to ring an old friend you have not spoken to for years. Whatever is written on your list, always make sure you finish that day having achieved at least one job on it, however small.

Any job that is transferred from list to list every day either will never get done or should have a time limit put on it for the end of that week. If it has not been done by then, take it off the list – it is obviously not that important to you.

Patients often see me with lists of complaints – ‘I’ve been saving them up for you, doctor!’ If I do not have the time to deal with every one, or each seems to be a major problem in itself, I win ask the patient to pick the problem they feel is most important. They will always know which this is, and are usually happy if it is dealt with. They can deal with the less important, or more recent, problems next time.

You may know there are certain things that you want to do but which never seem to get done. This may highlight problems in the way you manage your time, or mean you were not keen to do them in the first place. If you never seem to get round to ringing that friend on the list, ask yourself why. Do you really want to talk to them, or are feelings of guilt and duty the reason you write their name down? Be honest, and you will soon learn what is really important to you.

Spend five minutes writing down what you need to do the following day. Then note what you would like to do if you had the time – a wish list. Be ruthless about what is important and try to achieve one thing from the wish list, however small.

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