My new to-do list format

Posted on October 29, 2015

Like you, I’ve experimented with several different to-do list formats in the past – notebooks, napkins, emails to myself, lists for my assistant, and more. Last week, I started a new to-do list on google docs. I have a google doc that I share with our executive assistant so that she can remind me of the urgent things on the list just in case I’m not referencing it enough during the day. My new list is on google docs so that her and I can both add items to it. This way, if I’m in the car and remember something I need to do, I can call her and she can add it to the list for me. The to-do list has six columns:

  • Category. The options here are FU (for follow up, most email items fall under this category), Schedule (a call or meeting that needs to be scheduled), Payment (checking on the status of payment), Gift (something I need to get for someone), Pitch (brand or company that I want to pitch), Proposal (when I need to put a specific proposal together for a brand), Content (an idea I have for the website), Research (articles or companies that I want to look into or have our assistant look into), and Send (things that need to be sent out like books or contracts).
  • Date Last Contacted. I try to only put dates in this field so that if I need to sort the list by this column I can. This is literally – the date I was last in touch with someone. I usually mark the most recent day that I reached out to check-in.
  • Employee Initials. In this column, I put the initials of the employee who needs to handle. Although this is my to-do list, there are certain items that I want to make sure my team gets done. For example, if I ask my assistant, Marisol Botello, to schedule a call for me and I need to make sure it happens, I’ll put Schedule as the category, and MB as the employee handling. When I do check-in calls with my employees, I take out my to-do list and run down it to call out any items that might have their name on it. This gives me the opportunity to check the status and hopefully delete the item from my to-do list when it’s done.
  • Item name.This column simply describes what the specific task or item is. For example, schedule call with Target.
  • Is it Urgent? In this category, I either write, YES, NO, or WAITING. I also try to highlight the YES items so that my eyes go to them immediately. WAITING just means that I’ve done all that I can on an item and I need to wait for someone to get back to me. Since my to-do list can get pretty long, this column is imperative.
  • Notes. These are just random notes either about the status of getting this item done or notes from a call I had with the brand or person the item is about. Sometimes I’ll use this column to log the status of the item. For example, “left word for her on 5/21”.

I also added another tab to the google document and called it, June Follow Up. As there are some items that aren’t urgent so I don’t need to handle them until next week (the beginning of June). There are other items on the June list where people wrote me back and said, “reach out in June”. Instead of these items making my to-do list pages long, I thought that was a better way to organize them.

Every morning, I print out a fresh copy of my to-do list so it’s right next to me throughout my day. At the end of the day, before wrapping up, I try to make a final sweep through it. Now, it’s important for me to remember that all of the items here are not marked urgent, so I don’t need to get them done immediately. If I spent all day on my to-do list I might not get the right work done. I try to ask myself, which of these items will generate the results I need to see today?

For more tips on organizing yourself at work, check out my book, Welcome to the Real World.


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