Q&A: Making lists work for you

February 5, 2010

Get your questions answered on how to create effective to-do lists.

A: A basic rule of management is that there never is enough time to do everything, so you have to do the most important thing at any time. Therefore, the least-important tasks may go undone.

Making lists works for most people, but most people don't know how to use their lists properly. Even time-management experts have tasks and projects on their to-do lists that have gone undone for years. Another truism to try to remember is, "perfection is the arch-enemy of satisfactory." Here's how to use lists correctly:

2. Rank or "triage" your list priorities into A, B, and C categories each day. As are due today, Bs aren't due today but have due dates, and Cs are everything else.

3. Prioritize your duties within each category, that is, A-1, A-2, and so on.

4. As your last five-minute duty of every day, rank and prioritize the next day's list.

This technique also might help you sleep better at night, because you know that the next day you either have appointments or the tasks you already have prioritized. Also know that the better you get at using this list, the less likely you are to ever complete it. Some Cs never get done, and that's okay. Sometimes even some As don't get done, but you'll know that the most important ones were completed.

Medical Economics consultant Keith Borglum, CHBC, of Professional Management and Marketing, has been a licensed practice broker, appraiser, author, and management consultant to physicians for more than 25 years; is based in Santa Rosa, California; and practices nationally. Send your practice management questions to mepractice@advanstar.com