making-listFacing a day’s work or one big project can be daunting. With so much to accomplish in a limited time, the early plan is a vital starting point.

Making a list is a well-known strategy. It sounds simple, but deciding what to include can be tricky.

The all-day list shows tasks, large and small, that you want to accomplish that day. Numbering them in the order of importance or when you will do them can help. It’s OK to include small tasks. You won’t forget to do one, and crossing them off makes you realize that you’re moving forward.

The project list is different. It helps you think on paper. Adviser Brian Tracy says working from a detailed list keeps you on track. The visual record of accomplishment and constantly referring to it can increase your productivity by 25 percent or more. Be disciplined in your approach, he cautions.

For a project, Tracy says you should regularly ask yourself these questions:

What am I trying to do? Clearly define the goal and outcome. If you are working with others, make sure everyone knows the desired results.

What are my assumptions? Alec McKinzie, author or The Time Trap says, “Errant assumptions lie at the root of most failures.” What are your assumptions about the market, the actions of others, and the underlying motives of key players?

What if what you believe turns out to be not true? Always be willing to question your most cherished assumptions. Decide what you will have to do differently if your current approach fails.

A written plan of action, says Tracy, is the key to high productivity. Every minute you spend planning will save you as many as 10 minutes in execution.