You consider yourself to be pretty organized – you get to work on time, reply to your emails in a timely fashion, and are constantly working on something all day long. Why, then, do you always end up staying late and have a couple last tasks that you never even get to?

The solution to getting more done in your work day is actually one of the oldest tricks in the book: keep a daily to-do list! It’s simple; but make sure you’re not treating your to-do list like a shopping list. In other words, don’t just write down everything that comes to your mind and try to complete the ones you can.

Follow this guideline to create a solid, helpful To-Do List and accomplish more tasks in your day:

  • Make your To-Do List the day before – Planning ahead is the first step to getting ahead. Before you leave work, take a moment to write out what you need to do the next day. You won’t forget about any new, last minute priority items and you’ll save yourself time writing it down in the morning. Plus, reading a quick refresher of what you need to get done first thing in the morning will help you zone in on the work ahead of you.
  • Cross something off first thing in the morning – Assign yourself a task you can complete at the beginning of the day. It doesn’t have to be of the highest priority, but make sure you get it done within your first hour at work. Crossing something off your list will put you in a more productive and motivated mindset to finish other tasks. You’ll be crossing things off left and right for the remainder of the day.
  • Assign time deadlines to your tasks – It’s one thing to know you need to complete a task by the end of the day, but it makes all the difference when you delegate time slots to each of your assignments. Time deadlines help you prioritize your tasks in order of urgency and will encourage you to stay focused in order to get things done on time. With time sensitive tasks, you’ll also deter yourself from leaving things to the last minute and carrying tasks over to the next day.
  • Make a shorter list – When you start off the day staring at a list of 12 things to do and only 8-10 hours in a day, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Not only can too many tasks can be discouraging and make you feel like you have too much to do, but a daunting To-Do List can also trick yourself into thinking you aren’t getting any work done in your day. In reality, you’re just assigning yourself too much to handle. Decide which items can and should be done in one day and spread out the others throughout the rest of your week. Remember that you’re only human and it’s impossible to do the amount of work for three days in one.
  • Focus on one task at a time – Some people are good at multitasking, but that usually isn’t the case for most of us. Doing too many things at once can lead to added pressure that you don’t need and will definitely inhibit you from doing an equally good job on all of the tasks you’re assigning to yourself. Separate your tasks and do them one at a time. Giving 100% of your attention to one project will help you get it done faster and also ensure that you’re doing it right – which at the end of the day is always the most important goal.

It’s easy to get caught up in the projects being handed to you every week, but don’t let it overwhelm you! With a well-planned, daily To-Do List you’ll be able to take control over your tasks and make sure you get them done one day at a time. You’re on your way to better managing your workload and feeling more accomplished at the end of your day. Before you leave work today, take five minutes to jot down your To-Do List and start your next day or work week feeling ready for all your new tasks.