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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

To-Do List for Professionals by
Theresa London Cooper

We may often consider the value of a “to do” list in our personal lives, but I have found it to be very useful in my professional life as well. Teachers have a million and one things to do, decisions to make and people to meet on a daily basis. There are a number of distractions that we encounter everyday and when the day is over, we bemoan the lost opportunities to have completed important tasks.  Creating a day-to-day to-do list is great way to finish many more of the everyday responsibilities we desire. 

Take five or ten minutes at the end of the day or the beginning--decide which works best for you--jot down the things you must do for the day and one or two things you would like to do. A to-do list can also help you plan for the following day or week. At some point during the day, perhaps during a preparation or lunch period check off the things you have accomplished. By doing this, you have a chance to feel productive and remind yourself of the other items on your list. 

As you defer the things you don’t finish, over time you will become more proficient at composing a valuable list that will allow you to complete every item listed and determine what is reasonable to include.  I’m sure you’ve heard on the news that many Americans are sleep deprived. So, keep in mind that there are only 24 hours in a day, eight of which are needed for sleep.

It is important to prioritize. As you compose your list, categorize those things that you must absolutely complete. Then, categorize those items that you would like to do, but could postpone for a later time.

Be consistent and don’t get discouraged if you don’t accomplish everything on your list.  I have found that using a “to do” list effectively is a process. Initially, I overestimated what I could get done and invariably felt frustrated. But that led to composing a more realistic list, and soon I was accomplishing more. 

Overtime I have come to appreciate to-do lists as they have helped me set short and long-term goals. Moreover, they have been an effective organizing structure, which has kept me focused on the things I must do. From time to time, I still miss the mark, but I remind myself that I must center my attention on what is doable and celebrate what I have accomplished.

E-mail Theresa.

See also: How to Get Organized by Bonnie Glasgold


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