I love writing a to-do list for myself each day, but I swear some days it can do more harm than good! Rather than continuing to stress over your to-do list each day, follow these tips for actually writing a productive to-do list!
Write It Ahead of Time
I’ve learned from plenty of personal experience that the time to write my to-do list is not when I sit down at my desk first thing in the morning. Doing this usually leads me to feel like I’m behind already, and doesn’t typically lead to a super productive day. I find that it’s way more productive for me to write my to-do list at the end of each day. It allows me to evaluate what I was able to get done that day and what needs to be pushed until tomorrow, and it also allows me to dive right in when I get to work in the morning rather than scrambling to remember what I need to get done that day.
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Keep It Short
It might seem like the most productive to-do list is the one with the most tasks to accomplish in any given day, but I usually find that isn’t the case. First of all, it can be super stressful to look down at a long to-do list and feel like there’s no way you can finish everything on it before the end of the day. I also feel like it leaves me lost when I look at my list because I’m simply not sure where to start or what to tackle first.
Looking for a new to-do list? Make sure to check out these to-do list notepads for your desk!
Prioritize Your List
Here’s what happens when I don’t prioritize my to-do list: Every time I look at the list, I immediately gravitate toward the quickest, easiest task on the list for the sake of getting something crossed off. I make my way through the mindless tasks, and by the afternoon, when my energy is already starting to wane, I’m left with only the biggest, most time-consuming tasks on the list.
What I prefer to do instead is go back and forth between the biggest and smallest tasks on the list. I might start my morning with a few really simple to-do’s, and then jump into my biggest task for the day. Then, once the afternoon hits, I’ve finished my biggest to-do and can re-energize with some easier tasks again.
Categorize Your List
I used to carry a planner with me where I kept a list of everything I wanted to get done for the day for work, for my blog, and at home. The problem with this is that while I was sitting at my desk and should have been diving into my work, I was instead going over my to-do list for when I got home. And when I should have been blogging, I was instead lamenting about a task I didn’t get to at work. Now I keep them all separate and it really allows me to stay in the zone with whatever I’m working on.
I also usually break down my to-do lists by type of task. So if I have a bunch of calls to make at work, I’ll group those together on my to-do list and knock them all out at once. Or if I have a bunch of blog posts coming up that need graphics created, I’ll do all of those in one sitting.
Separate Your Master List From Your Daily List
At any given time I have a huge running to-do list of all the projects and tasks I want to do for the blog. Some of these are small tasks that can be done in an hour or less, others are major projects that are more long-term plans. In the past, I would use this as my to-do list for the blog. The problem was that anytime I would check out the list, I would get so dang overwhelmed that more than likely, I would end up not getting anything done.
What I’ve learned to do instead is keep my master list in a separate place, and only focus on my daily to-do list. Then I’ll go through the master list and pull tasks to add to my daily lists. This way when I’m looking at my blog to-do list, I’m looking at maybe 3-5 tasks that I need to get done rather than 25.
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I find that when it comes to productivity, it’s best to be as specific as possible with my to-list. This isn’t the place to list projects, this is the place to list tasks. That means breaking your projects down into manageable, bite-sized pieces. For example, I wouldn’t write “clean the house” on my to-do list. That’s pretty darn comprehensive and the chances of me cleaning the whole house in one sitting are just about zero. So instead I would write specific cleaning tasks like loading the dishwasher, vacuuming, etc. Keeping the tasks simple makes the list look a lot less overwhelming and will probably make you more likely to start getting things crossed off.
Leave Room For Flexibility
I work in a relatively flexible work environment. On one hand, it’s super nice because I can mostly construct my own work day and am not committed to a rigid schedule, or stuck working on the same thing day in and day out. However, it can also make it difficult to get through a to-do list because random things tend to pop up pretty often that throw off my schedule. The problem here is that I hate leaving things unfinished, meaning some days I’m staying later at the office than planned to finish what I wanted to get done that day, even if it’s not necessary.
This is one reason it’s good to start with a short to-do list! I also have to just be realistic with myself and accept that some days I’m not going to get everything done, which is okay.
What habits do you follow to keep a productive to-do list?
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