It's the oldest, simplest, yet probably still the most effective method for making sure you get everything done: the humble to-do list. But is there a way to get more out of your daily check list? We asked the experts: How can we make our to-do lists better, how can we streamline them to get things done faster? Is is possible to make a to-do list fun?
Check out their answers below:
Use a to-do list as an intake document and not as a working tool, says Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. Make a list of what you need to get done and assign it a time on your calendar. Then run your day from your calendar, not your to-do list. "You're more likely to complete a task if you give it a when and where," he says.
Use a to-do list app to record your errands and shopping items, and get an automatic reminder when you're near the appropriate location, says Carley Knobloch, Today show tech contributor and digital lifestyle expert. Using your phone's GPS system, apps such as Checkmark 2, Remember the Milk, and Apple Reminders (which is preprogrammed into iPhones) will alert you when you're driving by, so you can pull over and get it done. "The worst feeling is when you get home, realize you needed to pick up the dry cleaning, and think, 'I just drove by there!' " she says.
Manage your to-do list around your energy level, suggests Amir Salihefendic, founder and CEO of Todoist. When you're tired, pick tasks that don't require as much effort, such as email. Save tasks that require more thought, such as writing a proposal or creating a new product, for when you're more energized. Using your energy level as your guide will help you better engage with your tasks.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2014 / January 2015 issue of Fast Company magazine.