You know that highly organised person who is incredibly productive all the time? The one that you envy a little but also admire? They have the ability to manage their time effectively, complete tasks to the highest standard and actually get everything done. But it's not just a matter of luck or hard work. This person has the one weapon that we all probably use on a daily basis. We're just not using it efficiently enough.
The to-do list seems simple enough – you write down everything you need to get done and you work your way through it. But I think most of us know that it just doesn’t work that way. Compiling a to-do list is actually a skill in itself, never mind the task of actually completing it.
So if you're a bit fed up of plodding through the working day and being snowed under with endless tasks - or you just want to create a better routine for yourself - you don't just need a to-do list. You need an awesome to-do list. I think I've found five ways to help you create the best one yet.
Write everything down
I mean everything. From your morning routine to what you want and need to get done in the evening, and all your jobs throughout the day - seeing every single task written down in front of you will make them easier to manage. Getting it all out of your head doesn't take away the number of things you've got to do, but you will find completing them much easier. The best time to do this is either the night before or first thing in the morning so you’re ready to hit the ground running the next day. Think about when you work best. My creative energy is highest in the morning so I put all the big creative tasks during the AM and then move onto smaller ones as the day progresses. But you might be the opposite. It’s all about knowing when you’re most productive and filtering your tasks around your productivity levels.
Sunday is the perfect time to create this detailed list. You’ll understand why as we move onto the next tip.
Transfer items on a daily to do list (with sections)
Now here’s the part where we get super organised. Once everything is written down, it’s time to transfer these items onto a daily to-do list. This is where some people falter – the to-do list isn’t completed because there’s just task after task after task, with no structure. Experts have identified that people complete to-do lists when they’re split into sections, two to be exact: what definitely needs to be done that day (including regular parts of your routine, such as exercise), and a second list for other tasks you would like to get done that day.
Too often we fill our lists with endless tasks that maybe don’t need to be completed that day. A mountain of tasks just makes the list more challenging to complete. Whereas if you have two batches of tasks on one list, you’ll have more chance of completing them. That’s why it’s more important to focus on three or four main tasks each day so you don’t feel overwhelmed and include extras in the other category on your list.
If you find you’ve done enough of the main tasks, that’s when you move onto some of the others from your ‘want to do’ list. It’s about prioritising and taking control – only you are capable of being in charge of your daily tasks. A top tip? Be realistic.
Set yourself deadlines
We all know the rule – if something is going to take two minutes, just do it. It’s never a fun time when all those dull, quick tasks pile up, and we all know they do. For me, if I work on one project per day then nothing will get done. I try and work on four tasks – two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Even if I don’t complete one by a certain time, I’ll have definitely got to a certain point where I can leave it and move on. But I always give myself a deadline or else I’ll just get carried away. That way, by the end of the working day, I can look and see I’ve made progress in four projects, not just one.
If you want to spend more time on one task than others, that’s completely fine – the beauty of your to-do list is that you create it. It’s just about trying to be realistic and managing your time effectively, which just gets better the more we practice it.
Have regular breaks
I spoke on Monday about how important it is to take breaks and that rings true here too. Ever since I was in school, I’ve worked in 50 to 55 minute batches, and then I have a five minute break. It may not seem like a lot, but having that time away from my computer screen allows my brain to take a rest and surprisingly, my creative levels increase again. I’m naughty in that I don’t take a proper lunch break – I use that time to work on this space. But it’s even something as simple as driving home from work. Once I’m home, I’m ready to start my evening to-do list which always starts with a workout.
Our minds can only take in so much information at a time. When we pass the 50 minute point, it’s like a wall goes up with a sign that says, stop, I need a break.’ So take time to refuel, recharge and you’ll be back to it in no time.
No matter how full your to-do list is and no matter how panicked you feel when you look at it, please add in something fun for yourself. Even if it’s just sitting down to watch an episode of a TV show or reading a magazine in a hot bubble bath. Out of everything I’ve heard about to-do lists, this is something that’s never mentioned but it’s so important. I could come home and work on my blog until I go to sleep. But I know I’d just burn out within a few days. So I always stop at least an hour before I go to sleep and do something for me. Working full time means I only get chance to work on my blog at lunch and during the evening, but I guess that’s a reward in itself. And if (almost) everything is crossed off your list by the end of the day, you can give yourself an extra treat.
Do you have a daily to-do list? How do you manage it?
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