The world we live in seems to get busier every day. And, trying to navigate your way through a busy day can be infinitely more frustrating when your efforts to stay organized go awry. How often have you tried putting together a to-do list, only to get back to your desk after a meeting or phone call and find yourself unable to interpret what you jotted down before? Many of us rely on our lists of daily tasks to keep us on track, and these five tips can help make yours more effective.

Give your notes a fighting chance!

The demands of a busy day don’t grant you much downtime, but when it comes to keeping yourself organized, try allotting a short period of time dedicated to getting a better handle on the rest of your day. Rather than hurriedly jotting down some illegible chicken scratches, take the extra three or four minutes and comprise your list in a more detailed, concise manner. You’ll thank yourself later when you need to reference your list. Trust us, you deserve it.

Details, details, details

Including the specific details of a task can sometimes make or break the final result. In addition to writing out the task in a clear manner, make sure you include the specifics. Making a note to ‘clean your office,’ for example, is great, but leaving it at that won’t give you much guidance when it’s time to actually do it. Rather than simply writing ‘clean office,’ consider something more specific, such as, ‘organize important documents into color-coded folders.’ Always include specific strategies and goals for each task to complete them in a timely manner. Another benefit of details: they can remind you of your initial vision for a project or task. Not to mention: they make you feel even more productive when you cross each one off your list!

Technology is your friend

Sticky notes have held something of a monopoly on the note-taking practice for some time now. But as useful as the adhesive squares can be, if you have difficulty keeping them organized, your desk can quickly resemble an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle of random notes. And just like that, you’re taking precious time away from completing your tasks just to re-establish what your tasks actually are. If you and sticky notes gel about as well as oil and water, ditch the squares and store your lists in one space, like your computer, tablet, or smartphone. In addition to helping you stay organized, many of these devices now support apps that make note-taking easier, like Dragon Notes, which allows you to dictate your notes directly onto your device.

Establish a priority system

We all know some tasks hold more weight than others and establishing a method for sorting out your important ones is a crucial part of staying organized. Assignments that need to be completed by the end of the day (or within a shorter timeframe) should remain at the top of your list. Tasks that won’t be due for several days, or even weeks, don’t necessarily have to find room on your list of top priorities. Try keeping those in a separate (but still organized) space until they demand more attention.

Get the clarity you need

Is there anything worse than staring at a note on your to-do list and not remembering what it’s referring to? The feeling can be a bit debilitating, but rather than succumbing to it, take a moment to get the clarity you need. Don’t be afraid to ask a co-worker or superior to clarify a few details to refresh your memory. Whoever’s managing the project would much rather you ask a question or two than have you redo a task that wasn’t completed correctly. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Take deep breaths and the clouds will part before you know it.

With these five tips in hand, your to-do lists will quickly reclaim their original purpose: Keeping us organized and making our days easier.

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Greg Payne

About Greg Payne

In his role on the corporate communications team, Greg provides comprehensive support for Nuance’s Mobile-Consumer division’s communication efforts, spanning content development, media and analyst relations, and internal communications. Greg graduated from Endicott College in May of 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in communication, and is currently completing Northeastern University’s Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication program. Greg is a certified personal trainer and in his spare time he enjoys running half marathons and other road races, experimenting with new workouts, cooking, and screenwriting.