I'm a big believer in to-do lists, but beware the Dark Side: a list that's too long will seem overwhelming, and may actually do more harm than good. ("Ahhh! I'll never get all this done!")
That's why I've become a religious practitioner of the three-item to-do list. Here's how it works:
- Each morning, starting with a small, blank sheet of paper, write down three important tasks that need doing.
- Do the first task. Cross it off.
- Do the second task. Cross it off.
- Do the third task. Cross it off.
- Crumple up your to-do sheet and throw it away.
What's more, it may sound silly, but drawing a line through a completed task feels really good -- much better than clicking a checkbox in Outlook or an online to-do list. And at the end of the day, crumpling up that sheet makes me feel accomplished -- even if I have 10 other tasks that didn't get done.
I've also found that this lowers my overall stress level. It makes the day seem less...insurmountable. Try it every day for a week and see if you don't become a convert.