Not everyone is a “lists person.” However, if you are struggling to keep track of your tasks or to stay motivated throughout the day, a list could help you that. While to-do lists are a great tool to track outstanding tasks and to save time and energy, they can also be poor motivators.
The list-making process is very personal. A good to-do list should help you focus on what is important to you. It should always meet your needs as an individual.
Here you have seven techniques that will help you make a great to-do list that works for you.
1. Choose how to do it
When it comes to making a list, I prefer the old-fashioned way; using paper and pens works the best for me. Writing down helps me remember my tasks and essential information. However, using paper and pen does not work for everybody, especially if you often make changes to your list or if you are planning to share it with someone else.
If you decide to go digital with your to-do list, a simple spreadsheet or word document could do the trick. But, if you want to go a step forward, there are many apps for you to choose from that could help you to build up a great to-do list.
Regardless of my love for old school to-do lists, I must admit that to-do apps have many advantages over paper:
- Apps have built-in reminders.
- Lists are easy to edit.
- You can always back up your lists to the cloud.
- Lists can be arranged as you wish.
- You can make collaborative lists.
2. Make more than one
Having more than one list will help you stay focus on your task and your overall goal. No one wants to be distracted at work by personal obligations. No one wants to stress out about work tasks while at home. If you are using paper to write down your to-do list, you can always take an extra sheet, and if you are using an app, they usually let you make multiple lists.
When creating my to-do lists, I found out that what works best for me is to have three main lists: Work, Personal, and Household. After I make my lists, I divide them into sections: Daily, Weekly, and Monthly. That helps me to prioritize tasks.
3. Use prioritization techniques
One of the benefits of making lists is that it helps you prioritize your tasks. To achieve that, some prioritization techniques will help.
- MIT’s – This technique suggests starting each day by picking between one and three tasks you will focus on that day. These are your Most Important Tasks (MITs), and you should not work on anything else until those tasks are complete.
- Ivy Lee Method – This technique recommends that at the end of every workday, you choose six tasks to focus on the next day, order them in priority from 1-6, and then work on those tasks in priority order until all six tasks are complete.
- 1-3-9 – According to this technique, at the beginning of every workday, you need to choose 13 tasks to focus on that day: one high-priority task, three medium-priority tasks, and nine low-priority tasks. Complete the high-priority task first, followed by the medium-priority tasks, and then the low-priority tasks.
4. Keep it simple
Having an extensive to-do list will not only overwhelm you, but it will also make you feel unmotivated. The same happens when you have complicated tasks that will take days or weeks to complete.
The number of tasks you have on your list depends on your needs. However, many professionals suggest that after writing down the three most important tasks, there should not be more than ten tasks remaining.
Another way for you to keep your to-do list simple is to break down large tasks into smaller ones. By doing this, it will be easier to plan your days, and it will give you the satisfaction of seeing more things done on your list, which is also a great motivator.
5. Assign due dates
When a task has a due date, add it. If it does not have a due date, add it anyways. Due dates help you prioritize your tasks.
Not every task needs a fast or rigid due date, but by giving the tasks a due date, you are effectively planning out your schedule, which is a good time-management strategy.
Most to-do apps let users see what is due “today,” “tomorrow,” and so on, regardless of the list they are in. This could help you get a sense of how your day or your week will go so you can plan more effectively.
6. Keep track of your to-do list
One of the purposes of a to-do list is to guide you throughout your day. If you are making weekly to-do lists, you should revise at the beginning of the week to plan your time. Same as if you are making daily lists, you should take a look at it at the beginning of the day to know how your day is going to look like; or what else you need to focus on before the day is over.
If you find yourself feeling stuck on a task or need a break from it, look at your to-do list for another task that you could complete in the meantime. It will help you to keep your productivity up.
7. Be flexible
Your to-do list should be contributing to your overall wellbeing, including happiness, not dominating your life. This year has brought so many changes to our lives, most of them rough and chaotic. Be kind to yourself.
So much is expected from us, that sometimes pushing ourselves beyond our limits seems like the only way to meet them. However, it often leads to nowhere. Self-discipline is a great treat: It’s the key to maintaining balance, success, and health. But so are pleasure, relationships, and hobbies.
Remember that sometimes getting up and trying again tomorrow is the best you can do.
We hope these tips help you great a great to-do list. Keep in mind that the process of making a list is very personal, and it should always meet your needs as an individual.