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Master Project List Best Practice

The best practice of making and maintaining a master project list is an important component of a more effective to-do list, which can help you capture all your tasks and commitments using a practical time management system instead of relying on your memory to keep track of them.

The master project list gives you a big picture view of all the projects you are or could be working on. A project represents any result or outcome irrespective of how many steps it takes to complete.

The master project list replaces the to‑do list used in traditional time management systems. In my experience, using a master project list is much better than a simple to‑do list because it allows you to plan and organize each project separately, allowing you to focus on outcomes and not just actions (see Using a More Effective To-Do List for details.)

Working on a project for a block of time is much more effective than jumping from one unrelated task to another.

The master project list allows you to group related actions into projects and store only the project in the list; the actions associated with each project are stored and organized separately for each project.

The focus of the master project list is not on individual actions such as making calls, gathering information, or preparing an outline; the focus is on the outcomes you are trying to accomplish. The individual actions associated with each project reside in a separate Project Plan.

Your master project list will be smaller than an equivalent to‑do list and will be much easier to organize, prioritize, and schedule.

Using Your Master Project List

In my experience, the best way to store and manage a master project list is to use your computer. There are specialized software applications designed specifically to help you store, maintain, organize, prioritize, and schedule your projects.

Even an application like Excel or a text file works well. I personally used Excel and text files for several years to manage my master project list before developing the Achieve Planner time management software system. Now I use Achieve Planner exclusively to manage all my projects and tasks.

If you prefer, you can also use a notebook, a pad of paper, or a paper based planner to maintain your list. Almost any workable system is better than using your memory to keep track of things.

As the number of projects you are tracking begins to grow, you may find it useful to maintain separate project lists for your different result areas.

Some people prefer to have a separation between work and personal projects, while others prefer even further subdivisions into areas such as health, finances, career, and recreation.

This is where you need to decide what works best for you. As long as you keep all your lists together and can use them to get an overview of everything you are doing, it doesn’t really matter how your lists are organized.

Remember that your master project list represents the outcomes that you are trying to bring about, and not the actions you need to do. Part of the process of project planning consists of identifying and clarifying these outcomes.

In other words, you need to be clear about what it is that you are ultimately trying to accomplish, not just what you need to do. Focusing on outcomes rather than just actions is one key advantage that the master project list offers over a simple to‑do list.


The Time Management eBook contains much more information and examples on how to setup and use your master project list. Get it now!

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If you'd like additional help, time management coaching and life coaching are both a great resource to implement these ideas and improve your time management skills. You can use personal coaching or group coaching depending on your needs.

In a corporate setting, executive coaching is also very valuable to help you be more productive and perform at your best.


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