We are all guilty of making a to-do list and not completing all of our tasks. Maybe we get too ambitious when creating one, or maybe there just isn’t enough hours in a day.
There are plenty of apps available to help us organize and yet it seems that our to-do lists are getting more complicated each day. There has to be a way to create a doable to-do list that will keep you productive and motivate you to complete all of your tasks.
Many people consider it essential to have a to-do list while others think it’s a waste of time because you should be able to remember your tasks without any need for to-do lists. It’s agreeable that our brains are marvellous and that we should be able to remember all of the things we have to do in a day.
However, we have to understand that we are getting busier and there is less time for our brains to rest.
A to-do list can be considered as a great backup in case our brain forgets about some task, whether professional or personal.
Hack 1: Choosing the right medium
The first step towards better task management is choosing the right medium.
Don’t spend too much time picking out apps for your to-do lists. You can download couple of them to compare them, but once you’ve chosen an app, stick with it and make it work.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to use an app if it doesn’t feels like the right choice for you. You can always use notes on your phone, tablet, or a simple Word document to fit your needs. Also, using pen and paper is still a great option for creating your to-do lists.
Spending a lot of time on organizing your to-do list, leads to less productivity and over-organizing which accomplishes the exact opposite of what a to-do list should do.
Make sure to pick a medium that will help you most in organizing and completing your tasks.
Hack 2: Simplify your tasks
Simplifying the process of creating your to-do list gets you one step closer to a more productive day. Once you have your tasks written down, take a look at them and find tasks that can be broken down into smaller parts.
When you have a big project to finish, writing it out as a task can be scary and unrealistic. However, breaking the project down into smaller but actionable pieces, will help you achieve your goals easier.
For example, when looking for a job, a task that says “find a job” is very broad and doesn’t give you a time frame needed to accomplish your goal. Your task is not measurable or realistically achievable.
If you break this down by starting with “update LinkedIn and Resume” and follow with “attend DC networking session” and end with “follow up with Sam” will get you to your final goal of getting a job.
This approach gives you time to focus on smaller tasks that will lead to your final goal.
Another important thing is to add information to your tasks that will provide resources needed for you to start the task.
For example, if you have to follow up with Sam, you might insert a link to his LinkedIn profile and email. Once you do this, you can start the task immediately without having to browse for the necessary information.
You might find prioritizing tasks as a way to better organize yourself. Most of to-do app lists have color coded options and exclamation points to use for your task according to the task importance.
Hack 3: Separate professional and personal tasks
One of the biggest to-do list mistakes is mixing work and personal tasks. These tasks should be separated and applicable to your work or private setting.
Most of the apps have an option to create multiple lists for different settings and create sub-tasks on each separate list for each separate tasks.
“Do laundry” should not be on the same list as “submit annual report” just for the purpose of focusing on your current environment.
Hack 4: Keep it sweet & short
Your to-do list should be kept short to avoid being overwhelmed.
A 3-item to-do list has been generally accepted as a one-day work load to keep your goals realistic and accomplishable within a normal work day.
You might want to have a work and personal to-do list with 3 tasks on each. It’s easy to add tasks to your list once you finish your tasks early. But if your to-do list is too long and you’re unable to finish all of your tasks, it can easily bring you unnecessary anxiety.
On this note, you should avoid tasks to be completed far down the road. If you have something to be completed in a few weeks, you can create another list or place this task on your calendar.
Look at your calendar every once in a while to see what’s coming. As the time comes closer, you can work on these “future” tasks.
As you work through your to-do list, evaluate your accomplishments to see whether your to-do list is being helpful or not. Pay attention to your productivity and whether your to-do list helps increase it or complicate it. To-do lists should ease our everyday tasks and help us move through our tasks more efficiently.
If your to-do list is doing the opposite, it’s time to spend some time re-evaluating the methods you’re using.