I absolutely love to-do lists, they allow me to manage my life much more successfully and keep on top of the mountain of things I need to get done! They also give me the ability to free up space in my mind, and when I’m not trying to constantly remember what I need to do I can focus on other things. And most importantly having space in my mind allows me to be more present.
Over the years I have tried many different methods and below are some tips I have learnt, which hopefully will help you master your to-do list!
First thing’s first;
Find a medium that works for you.
Now this is probably the most important tip on the list!
If you are using the wrong medium for you then you will find it really difficult to master your to-do list. So this is something you should spend time considering as it can really impact how successful your to-do list will be!
There are so many different types of to-do list mediums and all have their pros and cons. I will go over a few different types below, but if you don’t find one you like don’t worry there are many more out there!
This is the traditional medium most people first think of when they consider making a to-do list. Whether it be a scrap of paper, a notebook or your diary.
The pros to a paper to-do list are that they can very easily be amended and updated! In addition to this you have such a wide variety of options such as online templates, to-do list pads (my favourite are from Paperchase!) or you can create your own. This gives you lots of potential flexibility around how you organise and manage your list.
However, the downside to a paper list is the potential to lose your list or forget to take it with you. When you are using your to-do list correctly, it should have every single task on. Therefore it’s something you want to lose!
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t love to-do list apps. I have tried a good many and some of my favourites are;
I currently use todoist for all my to-do lists. It allows you to organise your lists into categories (which we will get onto next) as well as label them, set due dates and alerts on your phone. In addition to this you can access your list via your phone or computer, so there’s not much chance of you losing or leaving your list at home!
If you use Google Calendar you can also integrate your to-do list from todoist with your calendar which is ridiculously helpful!
When considering which medium is best for you, you may need to trial them for a few days to get a feel for it. But if it doesn’t work for you then find something else, everyone works differently and there are so many options out there, there is bound to be one for you!
Separate your tasks into categories.
So now that you have settled on your medium, you need to create your list. The first thing I would recommend you do is separate your tasks into ‘categories’, this will allow you to manage your list much more efficiently.
I have three categories, work, home and personal. This not only breaks your tasks up into easier to manage chunks (preventing you from being overwhelmed, which is a common feeling when we have lots of tasks), but allows you to focus on one particular task list depending on where you are currently or what type of tasks you need to complete.
When you’re at work you don’t want to be thinking about the laundry you need to do later when you get home! So by separating your to-do lists you will only be looking at and thinking about particular tasks relevant at that time. Therefore if you have a work list, you will only be looking at and thinking about tasks you need to do while you’re at work.
Now your categories might look different to mine, which is fine! You need to make your list work for you, so create categories which fit your lifestyle.
Separate your tasks according to when they are due.
When creating your list, you should separate the tasks according to when they need to be completed by. For example, you could have an urgent section in your work list, for tasks that need to take priority over the other tasks within the list. This allows you to focus your attention on the tasks which need it, and it also prevents important tasks from being overtaken by other less important tasks within your list.
In my to-do lists, I have an ‘urgent’ category, which is for tasks that need to be done as soon as possible. So I know to prioritise these first and foremost. Then I have a ‘soon’ category which is for tasks that don’t need to be done right away, but need to be sorted within the next few days. Then I have a ‘someday’ list, for tasks which don’t necessarily have a due date, but are to be done when I have enough time and capacity to complete them. This could be anything from painting the kitchen wall, to reading that book I have been meaning to!
By sorting your list in this manner it enables you to focus your energy on the tasks which need to take priority. Whilst also keeping track of things you want to do that might not always need to be done right away. If you complete all your ‘urgent’ and ‘soon’ tasks you know that you have time to concentrate on the other less urgent tasks on your list without worrying that you might be better spending your time elsewhere.
Make a note of two-minute-tasks.
How you do this will depend on which medium you have chosen for your to-do list. However I would recommend making a note of tasks which you expect to take less than two minutes to complete. Either by categorising them separately or making them a different colour.
This means that when you have a spare couple of minutes you can refer to these tasks and get them done. So, for example, while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil you could check your two-minute-task list and see that you could take the trash out.
This allows you to make the most of the spare time you have, and keeping tasks like this noted you can refer to them when you have a spare couple of minutes!
Now you have a well-organised to-do list with every task you currently need to complete on it. The next step is to actually use it!
This is the step which many people forget and it is the downfall of many. Make sure you refer to your to-do list throughout the day and actually update it. Don’t keep tasks in your head, put them on your list. Your head is
I would recommend blocking out time each day/week to organise and manage your to-do list. Ensuring it is up-to-date and organised. There is no point having a to-do list you don’t refer to and keep current!
I hope you find this information useful, and now you can go and BOSS your day!
For more interesting information on to-do lists look here;
The psychology of the to-do list – why your brain loves ordered tasks
A Neuroscientist on the Calming Powers of the To-Do List
The psychology of the to-do list