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Your "Top 5": A Key to Organization

By Tonya Terry

This blog post is modified from an article that appeared in Radiation Oncology News for Administrators Vol 32 No 3.

I have always been an organizer and a planner. As a radiation therapist I used a notebook agenda for professional daily goals and activities. Now I use my Outlook calendar for organizing work meetings and notes. Outlook offers a good high-level view of my day.

I also use a daily “Top 5” list that I write on a sticky note. I learned this strategy during professional development training for new supervisors. An instructor talked about writing down the top three tasks for the next day. I found that writing down my top five tasks was better for me. I started this practice in 2019 as a manager and have continued it since being promoted to director of radiation oncology in 2021.

Writing my top five list is the last thing I do before I leave the office. I stick it on my keyboard. I reflect on what I really need to get done the next day and what items are attainable. Each list has a few attainable tasks that don’t require a lot of time, so that I feel good when I walk out of the door, no matter what kind of day I’ve had.

The first item on my list is always the most difficult or the most daunting task. Sometimes the first item on my top five list may be a recurring thing I have to do. Or, I might break down my number one task into sub-tasks, so that I can mark off at least one of those at the end of the day and feel like I’ve made some headway.

I come to work 15 to 30 minutes early every day on purpose so I can start working on my top item without any interruptions or distractions. Not everybody can to do that, but it allows me to start my day off right. If the rest of the day becomes chaotic, I’ve still touched my task list.

I may not accomplish my top five every day and that’s okay. It feels really good to mark any item off my list of to-dos. If I do get all five of mine done by the end of the day, I just feel that much more productive.

Focusing on five items is good for my productivity, reduces some of the daily stress and helps keep me focused. A longer list would be overwhelming. For instance, if I sat down Monday morning and wrote my list of 25 to get done that week, I might not feel as if I’m making a dent. If I do five each day, I’ll actually complete the 25 at the end of the week, and it won’t feel like it’s so much work.

Every administrator, manager and staff member needs to develop a system that works for them. It’s helpful to ask others what tools or strategies they use to stay organized. A combination of techniques may work best. Keep in mind that not crossing off all five items on the “Top 5” on a given day doesn’t mean you haven’t done your job that day.

Does writing a "to-do" list help you?
Do you write a long list or a "Top5"?

Share any helpful tips and suggestions.

We would love to hear your experiences.

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Related Content:
SROA Blogs
Radiation Oncology News for Administrators Vol 32 No 3


Society For Radiation Oncology Administrators (SROA)


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