Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The end of the year is coming quick, and a lot of us are racing to get a month’s worth of work done in three weeks (two if you’re lucky).

If you’re like me, you’re holding a lot of to-dos in your head even though you have a perfectly good system that doesn’t require that much brainpower. You might think that something is too important to forget, but in my experience, when I tell myself, “Oh, I’ll remember that,” those words are nearly a guarantee that I will, in fact, forget that.

So here’s a quick tip — well, two:

First, write those tasks down!

Second, and this is the important part: start each item with a verb and write down more than you think you need to.

My to-do lists used to look like bad poetry: a list of mysterious keywords that I thought would spark my memory. But more often than not, I would look at that list, see those magic words, and then only have a vague recollection of what I wanted my future self to accomplish.

So, instead of an item that just says “John,” now I write something like “Call John to ask about the proposal he sent on 12/5.” Starting it with the action — “Call John” — is integral to understanding what it is I’m supposed to do. And the rest of the task provides more detail so that I know where to go digging if I need to do anything else to support accomplishing the task.

This might seem obvious, but I often catch myself trying to take shortcuts with my to-do list and I am always glad I added the verb and extra detail when the time comes to cross those items off.

What are your to-do list best practices?

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