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Once in a while when I tell people that I live by to-do lists their initial response is something like, “You’re too young to have to write things down as much as you do” and honestly I’m confused. Personally, I always have a thousand and one things to do between work, home and ATBM.com. Quite frankly, if I don’t make a to-do list of pretty much everything that I have to do in a day it will somehow get lost in the shuffle.
It’s comes to no surprise that my day goes much smoother with a to-do list. I once forgot to complete a whole final class project because I thought that in my senior year of college to-do lists were beneath me. Boy, was I wrong.
Fast forward to my life as a functioning adult, I see that most people who get stuff done efficiently have some type of way to keep track of their daily tasks. I quickly learned this when my supervisor at my new job pretty much on a daily basis asked what was on my to-do list and often added following up with things I asked of her to her own.
Making and using to-do lists is an art, not a science meaning that there isn’t just ONE way to do it. There are however some tips that I can provide to make having a to-do list less annoying more beneficial to you.
Stop thinking you can remember every single task that you need to accomplish for the day
9 times out of 10, you won’t. We’re not robots so there is no reason why you should think that you have to embed a days worth of tasks in the back of your head. Writing things down doesn’t making you less capable; it actually makes you more organized and accountable.
Pick a time of day that you can create you to-do list on a daily basis
One thing that you absolutely want to avoid is creating a to-do list when your day has pretty much started. Having a to-do list beforehand helps you use your time much more wisely (that’s kind of the point). Creating your to-do list either first thing in the morning or even and the end of your day (for the following day) can be beneficial to you.
Choose a medium and choose it wisely
When it comes to to-do list it’s definitely different strokes for different folks. Some may love phone/tablet apps to create to-do lists, while others may be more fond of a pad/journal and pen. Whichever you choose, be sure it’s one that you can stick to. If you’re new to this in general, try alternating between the mediums (temporarily) to see which one best suits you.
Refrain from the Mary Jane Method = post-it’s all over.
Make separate lists and refrain from creating a long overwhelming list of tasks
If you’re a busy bee (like most of us are) making a long list of tasks that need to be completed amongst the different facets of your life may be counterproductive. Start by making a master list of to-do’s that need to be accomplished long-term (i.e. to-do this week). Then break up your tasks by work, home, side hustle etc. so when you look at your to-do list you don’t want to SCREAM like hell.
Be very specific…
Though you may for the most part know what it takes to do XYZ, being specific can’t hurt. For example, if you write “make spaghetti” on your to-do list then you totally forgot to add you have to buy spaghetti noodles and sauce because you ran out, that ends up being pretty much a waste of space on your to-do list and one less thing you got accomplished for the day.
Put the most important tasks at the top (and put a unique identifier like an asterisk next to it if you find it necessary to stress the importance). What’s the use of having clean makeup brushes if the important report that has your job on the line isn’t submitted before the deadline. Clean makeup brushes are cool but I think you’d rather be employed.
When applicable, make your to-do list essentially into a timeline by including how much time and/or what time span you will get X task done in. You will find yourself wasting less time this way.
Don’t stress yourself out
A wise person once told me, sh*t happens. If you can’t get to everything that is on your list, it’s not the end of the world. Making to-do lists is essentially a time management skill and in due time you WILL master it.
Good luck with your to-lists this week. What are some ways your making your to-do lists really work for you?