By Gina Blitstein

Have you reached the point in your personal or professional life where you feel disorganization is dragging you down and preventing you from doing the things you need to do? That's a stressful situation that can all-too-easily snowball, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and under-motivated. It may be time to seek out a new, or change up your existing, "to-do system."

Organization experts offer advice, and often include some products, to help you be more productive by mastering your to-do list. Many of these systems are highly effective at sorting, prioritizing, scheduling and tracking those tasks, which collectively make up the sum of our productivity. They come in a variety of intensities, from subtle to highly immersive. There's no shame in deciding that it's time to bite the "to-do" system bullet. Likewise, there's no shame in admitting that, due to changes in your workload, workflow, duties or circumstances, it's time to reevaluate your solution. Even more important than hopping onboard a to-do system is hopping onboard one that's appropriate for you.

An important fact of which to be aware is that the guiding theory behind any to-do management system will be effective only when it's the right fit for the person attempting to organize with it. The appropriate to-do system for you is the one that "thinks" and "works" in a manner that's consistent with the way you think and work. While there's a lot that can be learned from a well-conceived to-do management system, changing your entire "modus operandi" to fit the structure of a to-do plan is probably going to cause it to be difficult to adopt and ultimately make you less productive.

Choosing a to-do system to help you be more productive:

Here are some best practices to consider when searching for a to-do system that may substantially and positively impact your productivity:

  1. Do some soul- and process-searching: You can't solve an issue that you can't articulate. Determine what your goals and needs are – then look for a product or system that will help you accomplish them.
  2. Do your research: Hit the Internet or the bookstore to discover what assistance is available to help you meet your productivity needs.
  3. Stay grounded: Many systems make broad and sweeping claims about how they can increase your organization and productivity. Avoid falling for the hype and remember there's no magic bullet when it comes to mastering your to-dos; there are only frameworks in which you can operate.
  4. Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations: There's little better than firsthand experience with a system or product to provide you with the real story and realistic expectations. Make certain, however, that those you ask haven't bought into the hype of whatever system and/or product they're using and are able to provide objective opinions.
  5. Read reviews: In addition to asking people you know, useful reviews about to-do systems and products can be found online. Take care, however, to keep them in perspective and try to glean if the reviewer had realistic expectations of the product – as well as a firm handle on his or her own goals – before writing the review.

These are the first steps to making a wise choice of a to-do management system. Approaching the choice prepared with self-knowledge and research will help you as you get down to the nitty-gritty of trying out some systems for yourself and gauging their fit to your needs and goals. Now you're ready to read on for the next installment in this two-part series, entitled, "Evaluating and Implementing a To-Do System for Greater Productivity" for advice on choosing and using a to-do system that will positively impact your productivity.

Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank.