Writing a to-do list can be overwhelming, to say the least. What are you supposed to write? How do you start tackling your list? How can you make sure everything gets done and you stop stressing about things? All these questions go on and on in our minds for too long, but today I’m here to share with you 5 easy tips for writing a better (and productive!) to do list.
Whatever life you have, whatever job you do, you probably have lists to get things done. Whether they are digital or the old school pen and paper (hands down my favorite!), you need them in order to achieve your goals, meet deadlines, and meet your daily responsibilities including your home and personal life.
Before I share my tips with you, I want to start by telling you why many to do lists feel like a chore and more often than not, fail.
- They are not organised – writing random things in a list and hoping that you’ll find inspiration each day on what item to tackle first, isn’t going to help you. Unless you use this as a principle – more on that later – you will most likely feel overwhelmed and will want to quit shortly after.
- They are too long – how are you supposed to get 100 things done in one day? Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day, and you surely can’t fit soo many things in it. The result is that you will feel like a failure for not accomplishing everything on your list, but the reality is, that wasn’t achievable in the first place.
These are two of the main reasons, but there are definitely others that you have probably experienced, so now let’s get to the solutions, shall we?
5 tips for how to write a to do list
Table of Contents
1. Identify your priorities
First and foremost, all you need to do is really know what is most important on a specific day or week and start by working on those things first. Working on your website or doing the laundry may be important, but HOW important is it RIGHT NOW?
That’s really the key to writing a smart to do list. You don’t want to start working on things just for the sake of ticking items off of your list, but then when you think about it, the important stuff still needs to get done because you gave too much time to something that wasn’t so important in the short term. So start by thinking about what your priorities are, and start writing your list following that specific order. And this leads me to my second point below.
2. Establish deadlines
Once you know what you need to do most urgently, you also need to set deadlines on your list so that you can stay on track with what needs to be done and avoid risking to stay behind. For example, two of your priorities might be to cook for the whole week cause you have NO food ready, but you also need to deliver a work project on the same day.
So the way you set a deadline is by asking yourself whether meal planning is the most important thing, or if it can wait a few hours whilst you finish your work project and then you will be able to dedicate time to it. Once you have the answer to that, you will be able to write down that you need to finish that project by a specific time in the day, so that after that you can dedicate the rest of your day to meal planning.
Did you know that another great benefit of setting deadlines (and seeing them with your own eyes) is that they will push you to work hard and make the most of the time you have? In some cases, they might even motivate you to finish working before the deadline, so what’s not to love about them? Also, if my example of cooking because you have nothing ready (like nada) hit home, please don’t wait another second and read my post on meal planning for the week to make sure you never have to struggle with that again.
3. Use categories
Ahhh the joy of putting everything into a category! Organization nerds will know what I’m talking about. But the truth is, categories will make your life so much easier! Instead of scrolling through an endless list of random items all thrown in together, seeing everything you need to do in a neat system, will help you to have more clarity to determine what needs to be done first.
This will also help you to avoid starting working on a specific task, then your eye falls on the next, not related item, and you suddenly start working on it or you stress thinking about when it will get done. And another benefit of categories is that you’ll be less likely to forget to write something down because you dedicate a specific amount of time to each category instead of doing a general brainstorming and writing things down randomly with no specific order.
4. Write a smaller list
It’s actually that simple. You might think that by doing that you will leave out a lot of things that need to be done, but the truth is that even if you wrote them all down on your list, you would probably still not be able to achieve them because they would just be unrealistic and unachievable.
Instead of stressing yourself out and feeling bad after, just try to write down fewer items on your list. On a daily basis, I try to stick to a top 3-5 depending on the deadlines I have on a specific day, but I never want to go above 5 because otherwise, it will be more difficult for me to actually get those things done.
Are you at home and struggling to be productive with your lists? Then check out my post on how to increase your productivity while working from home!
5. Have an ‘everything else’ list
Remember when I spoke about not writing random things down unless they have a specific strategy? This is the strategy I was talking about. After you have followed the first 4 steps and have written down a categorized to do list with all the deadlines, you can make room for an “everything else” list.
What does this mean? This will be a list (or category) in addition to your main one, that will include any other things that come to your mind at any point during the day/week. Chances are, things will happen throughout your days and they will add onto your plate, so instead of brushing them off and then forgetting about them (like the very annoying admin stuff that no one likes to do), you can simply write them down in this list, with no category or deadline because they are not a priority, but you will be aware that you will have to do them at some point.
If you have time after ticking off everything else on your list, then you can start working on them, otherwise leave them until you do have time or when (and if) they become urgent, you can assign them to your main list and give them a deadline.
Final thoughts on how to write a better to do list
To recap, writing an effective to-do list means that you will: know your priorities, set deadlines, use categories, write a smaller list, and have a list for everything else. Once you start using these tips your life will become so much easier and you will finally be able to be on top of your to do list!