Rethinking your To-Do list

The To-Do list. It seems like a no brainer. You just write down EVERYTHING you have to do, and cross each task off as you complete it (ahhh, the best part). But if your list isn’t working for you (aka, you never seem to get to the end of it), maybe it’s time to revamp.

I recommend splitting your list into three different lists. Ok, I know you’re probably thinking “ugh, that sounds like MORE work,” but hear me out.  Putting a little more thought into your list(s) can end up saving you a lot of time and help you feel more motivated too. When everything, from short errands, to long-term projects are on one list, it can seem overwhelming. You may get to some tasks, but others seem to get transferred from list to list with no resolution in sight. When you separate and prioritize, you will know what you need to take action on first and when is the best time to accomplish each task.

Breaking down your long-term goals

Your first list is for long-term projects. Write down the things you are working towards this year. This could include business goals, health goals, house improvements, etc. It is important that you be as specific as possible! It will be a lot easier to work towards a measurable goal, than something fuzzy and undefined. If your goal is to lose weight, come up with a number (“I want to lose 15 lbs”, or “I want to be at 150 lbs” by next January). Under each goal, brainstorm all the steps, big and small, you need to take to get to that goal. For instance, for the weight loss goal, you can add “check out gyms in my area, sign-up, go to the gym 3 times a week, make an appointment with a nutritionist,” etc. This will be your master list, which you will reference regularly, and add items to your calendar at the appropriate time. You don’t need to carry it with you at all times, but the more accessible/visible it is (like on a bulletin board above your desk, or on your fridge), the more you will be reminded of where you’re headed.

Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

Everyday Tasks

The second list is your short-term task list, tasks you must accomplish within the day or week. Start by checking your long-term goal master list, and adding the sub-tasks you can start on right now. Then add all that other life-maintenance stuff (does it ever end??) that has a specific deadline. You can add a mark (a star, smiley, whatever!) to indicate the tasks that are most urgent. Since you’re sure to accomplish all these things by the end of the week, you will have the satisfaction of being able to cross everything off!

“I’ll get to it when I get to it..”

The third list is your “whenever” list. This is a list of low-priority tasks that don’t have a specific deadline. This list can include things like returning an item to a friend, calling a relative to say hi, or buying a non-crucial item. They’re things you would like to, and intend to do, but they’re not dire enough that you put them on the schedule, so they often get neglected. When you have a free block of time, you can glance at this list and see if there’s anything you can tackle. I also like to mentally group tasks based on location (where I can accomplish them) as I check my list, so I don’t spend my time driving all over to get things done just because I’m going down my list in order. If I’m close to a shopping center where I can accomplish three tasks in a 20 minute block, that will be more productive than spending the time driving somewhere to accomplish one task.

Lastly, decide if you prefer analog or digital lists. I like to have a written “long-term list”, but keep my “short-term” and “whenever” lists in the notes app on my phone for easy reference. Other people prefer to put them in a calendar or planner that they reference frequently. Do what works for you!