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The smart way to make a to-do list

Many of us live by our to-do lists. That makes these scribbled or typed lists incredibly important -- they dictate what gets done!

So what's the most effective way to organize your priorities?

I find that thinking in terms of a week -- 168 hours -- is better than day by day. A week gives us a more complete picture of our lives. It encompasses the personal and professional, and shows us how much time we really have. Thinking in terms of weeks, rather than days, also helps us give time to important matters, striking the right balance between the long-term and the immediate.

Hopefully, somewhere, you have a list of personal and professional goals for the year (one reason to write your end-of-year performance review or holiday letter now). Look at this list frequently. Then, on Sundays, or before the start of your week, review these goals and figure out what you can do this week to advance toward them.

Do you want to run a 10k? Better list four runs on that weekly to-do list.

Want to find a new career opportunity? Maybe you can put a networking event on the list.

Planning on writing a book? This may be the week to check out books on how to write a proposal.

Trying to build a closer relationship with your kids? This is the week you take them to a basketball game after work.

After you list these important priorities, put them on your schedule first. Of course, there are probably other matters that need to get done as well -- assignments, projects that aren't so closely related to your huge goals. They'll need to get put on the list and the calendar, too. But only after you list the important things. Life is too short to skip things that matter because the mundane gets your attention.

Do you make a weekly to-do list?