As always, this tip applies to all kinds of projects and tasks. I’m merely using web development as a personal example.

I’ve been working as a full-time web developer for the past four months. This means that I have to deal with project management all the time. I’ll often be working on a project alone, and have to design a rough plan for what I need to do in order to create the final product. The list usually starts to snowball as I progress and keep jotting down additional tasks.

These general to-do lists are important for coordinating your work and reminding you to complete tasks at appropriate times. But what I’ve noticed is that when I have a big project on my desk that includes dozens of different tasks and features that need to be implemented, I often lose track of where I have to go the next day—especially if it’s a Monday morning. So every time I go to work, I have to reorient myself to pick up from where I left off the previous workday.

I’m a web developer so most of my time goes into designing and implementing features for web applications and websites. Most of the time I can’t just leave a single file open in my code editor and continue from there the next day. Since applications usually comprise multiple files, I have to take everything into account. This is why I’ve learned that it’s important to plan a little bit ahead and give yourself some instructions for the next day.

It doesn’t require much effort. All you need to do is write down a few lines describing the next steps that you need to take. Simply remind yourself what needs to be completed. The core idea is just to quickly reorient yourself.

When writing tasks for yourself I recommend that you stick to one action per line to make sure that you don’t skip over any important ones. It’s much simpler to focus on one thing at a time, and go onto the next list item when you’re done with the previous one.

For example…

Case A
Read Emily’s email, and reply to her.
Work according to her instructions.

…is more prone to mistakes than:

Case B
Read Emily’s email.
Reply to Emily.
Work according to her instructions.

Now, here are a couple of example task lists.

Example Scenario 1

You’re working on your client’s blog. It’s almost time to leave the office, so you create a new file and start to scribble down immediate tasks for tomorrow:

Create an author bio element inside the div.sidebar element.
Set the font styles for all text elements in the author bio.
Check for redundant stylings.

Example Scenario 2

It’s Friday 5pm and you’re writing an offer to a prospective client. But you notice that you have to leave half of it for Monday…

Read the last paragraph under Delivery Policies.
Finish writing it.
Review the entire section to see if it’s coherent.

Example Scenario 3

You’ve just finished editing a short promotion video for a product ad, so your task for tomorrow is to render it and inform the client about it.

Render video.
Email client.

By writing a clear task list for yourself you no longer need to worry about remembering what needs to be done the next day. And so you can also avoid wasting half an hour every morning trying to figure out where you left off the previous day.

Since you’ll be writing these notes at the end of the day, it’s best to keep them short and to the point. They’re not supposed to feel like a chore. Allow yourself to get used to the fact that they really help you to get organized, and that writing the instructions doesn’t take longer than a minute.