Productivity and a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day are important aspects of job satisfaction. But what’s the best way to stay focused so you are not sideswiped by fire drills or inconsequential things throughout the day? While our earlier article about productivity was related more to email, it still included tips for taking control of your day with a to-do list.

Aytekin Tank, Founder and CEO of JotForm has a different approach: ditch the to-do list. It’s an interesting idea, and one you might consider incorporating into your routine. Yet, while we like the premise of this article, it feels like he is too dramatic in saying ‘no to-do lists’ at all.

Let’s incorporate Tank’s suggestion in a different way, with two areas of focus

We agree with the idea of separating out one important thing as the article suggests. However, we would advise that you should have two lists, one for important things, and one for the little things. And then use a different approach for each list that will keep you focused and productive.

#1: Important Things

The first list should be important things to get done. For these items, block out time in your calendar to make sure you are going to be able to tackle these tasks. Maybe even add a little extra time as Tank hints at in his article, as things often take longer than we think.

We’d recommend that you focus on one or two important actions and set aside time accordingly. Depending on the complexity, you might be able to accomplish these in a day. However, larger programs may require daily time spent on tasks for the entire week (or month) to stay on track. Instead on one large never-ending action item for those larger areas of focus, break these up into one or two smaller, but important, actions for each day.

“Long hours spent checking off a to-do list and ending the day with a full trash can and a clean desk are not virtuous, and have nothing to do with success. Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list — a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.”

-- Gary Keller

#2: All Those Little Things

It’s important not to let the little action items of the week get in the way of the important action items. However, that doesn’t mean they go away or can truly be ignored. For daily items, there is still value in having a to-do list, and making time in your calendar to address them. Consider blocking an hour here and there to make room for them, preferably after you have completed your important item.

We all know that if those little things don’t get done in a timely fashion, they will become bigger challenges! Having a list of those smaller action items is just as important and useful in making sure don’t forget them and helping you categorize them by level of priority.

We encourage you to test this line of thinking with your own list of deliverables. Let us know how it goes.

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