5 Tips for Workplace To-Do Lists that Work

Making a list, checking it twice…

Lists are the quintessential method to stay on track for any situation. Yet, why are so many to-do lists doomed to fail? The all too common habit of leaving lists incomplete at the end of the workday can severely reduce the efficacy of the exercise but luckily, there are some tips to help improve your chances of success.

Keep Expectations Realistic

The impulse when writing lists is to jot down everything (from major tasks to minutia) that could never be finished in one day. Long-term goals and benchmarks should be set aside from day-to-day lists. Be ambitious, but realistic when fleshing out your list.

We Secretly Love Busywork

One method to improve your likelihood of following through is to separate tasks into “Busy Work” and “Substantive Work.” A study done by UC Irvine found that employees actually enjoy doing busywork. In an interview conducted by the Wall Street Journal, researcher Gloria Mark said, “With rote work, you get a feeling of accomplishment, but you haven’t exerted a lot of mental activity. It gives you a feeling of fulfillment, but there’s not frustration or stress.” Use your list to order your priorities and to focus on the really important tasks. Leave busywork as a “break” from the more stressful responsibilities.

Find the Right Medium for You

Choosing between pen and paper or an electronic app may seem trivial, but it can have an impact on your attitude towards your undertakings. Paper is the de facto standby with good reason; the physical act of writing is proven to reinforce ideas and motivate action. However, if paper isn’t your thing, consider apps like Wunderlist, a free task manager app with customizable reminders, due dates, and even a share feature or Things for iPad/Mac which has won numerous awards, including a Macworld Best of Show Award, for easily customizable workflows and lists in a beautiful interface.

Outsource the Mundane

If you find that your to-do list is cluttered with tasks that absorb an unreasonable amount of time and energy, consider wiping them from your list altogether. Tasks like PowerPoint design and employee recruiting can be delegated elsewhere with the advent of innovative companies and software like ConceptDrop (professional design in as little as 24 hours) and Lever (streamlined and tracked application software).

Regularly Check on News and Social Media

Set 15-20 minutes aside every day to catch up on industry-related news from websites, social media, email newsletters etc.  Even though you’re at work, taking the time to learn and keep yourself up to date is can inspire and activate your creative juices. Research has even found that briefly browsing social media can help clear the mind and improve your mood at work.  With a scheduled break as an incentive, you’re less likely to click back and forth between sites whenever the mood strikes. At ConceptDrop, we love browsing through sites like Ad Age, Medium, and Twitter to stay updated and relaxed.


We hope you found this blog post helpful! Check out 4 Reasons to Outsource Design and Should You Drink Coffee Before Your Presentation? for more tips on succeeding in the workplace.


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