A To-Do List Worth Writing

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teaching resource conquer your to-do list“Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and then sustain it.” —Warren Bennis

Good intentions only get us so far, especially when it comes to our daily workload. In a survey of 6,500 professionals, 63 percent said they regularly write to-do lists to stay on top of their game. Of that group, however, only 11 percent actually complete the tasks on those lists. Whether we’re creating lists that are too long or demanding, or we’re being bombarded with interruptions, we’re failing miserably at realizing our productivity.

In “How to Conquer Your To-Do List,” from the December issue of Education Update, educators M. Nora Mazzone and Barbara J. Miglionico share an easy strategy for parsing out tasks. In this excerpt from their book, Stress-Busting Strategies for Teachers: How do I manage the pressures of teaching? (ASCD, 2014), the authors introduce the “3+ List.”

Start each morning with a 3+ List. The three tasks are your nonnegotiable tasks that will make the day feel productive and successful. Rank them. Then add two “plus” tasks. Your plus tasks are not urgent and can be considered bonuses if you actually get to them. When you get to work, post the 3+ List where you will see it often and cross off each item as you get it done.

Monday’s 3+ List
  1. Create tiered math assignment for tomorrow night’s homework.
  2. Organize homogeneous book club groups.
  3. Send an e-mail blast to parents about an upcoming field trip.

Plus List

  1. Arrange a time to meet with the literacy coach next week.
  2. Request whiteboard markers and masking tape.

Stay attentive to your three tasks during the school day and don’t add to them. After crossing off those tasks, you can consider working on the plus tasks. Plus tasks eventually make their way to the top of the list unless they are achieved as pluses. (pp. 23–24)

According to Mazzone and Miglionico, there are some caveats for how tasks should be organized and labeled. For instance, labeling a task as “difficult” can be wholly self-defeating. Check out “How to Conquer Your To-Do List” for more list-making dos and don’ts, and make 2015 one of your most productive years yet.