How to Create the “Perfect” To-Do List … And Actually Get Things Done!
Make no mistake: crafting a flawless to-do list is an art form, but with everything you will learn in today’s blog post, now you too can become an expert organizer and save yourself time by actually getting things done!
Fact: Did you know that almost 90% of people don’t regularly finish their daily to-do lists?
That’s a notion to not worry … You’re not the only one.
Truthfully … achieving our goals is almost always harder than it seems. That’s why organizing your life into a manageable list, by crossing each item off as you go – and make room for new ones, is the ultimate way to find yourself some free time. For me, crossing each item off my list with a thick black sharpie presents with me a real feeling of accomplishment. And depending on what that task may have been, a hard-earned stress reliever, LOL!
To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.
~ Stephen Covey, Educator, Author and Businessman
For me, list-making is a pretty personal thing. I’m even going to admit I border a bit on the obsessive side of things. But for some, winging it willy-nilly works just fine. Either list-making personality has its flaws … it’s making a successful one! Now, I know you have an awesome list of stuff to get done, so today I am here to help you create the “perfect” to-do list with my step-by-step guide so you can start checking those items off and being willy-nilly with your free time instead!
The ACTION PLAN:
Before we dive into the step in this action plan, I want you to understand and utilize the Eisenhower method in every decision you make about where and how things get placed on each of your lists. To use this method, you need to answer the following … How important is it and how urgent is it? NOTE: What is most important may not always be urgent, and vice versa.
- Choose a medium that you feel would be most beneficial to your working style to help you create these to-do lists. To offer some examples, I like traditional paper and pen for my day-to-day notes then Asana and Evernote for my long-term notes/goals/timelines. I like to keep things separate for ease of organization.
- Make multiple lists for everything you’re looking to accomplish no matter the size. At the very least, you should have one mater list for accomplishing all your short and long-term goals then one which includes your daily tasks, projects and goals (don’t forget to include your HIT list – aka. top three priorities) and lastly, your weekly to-do list prioritized by level of importance then broken down into a schedule of time (e.g. how long will it take me to do?).
- Keep things simple and clear because there is nothing more intimidating than a forever long to-do list. Frightening just to think about some of the ones I’ve created for myself in the past **shudder.
- Prioritize your list with your most important tasks and break things down into goals and timelines.
- Tackle a few easy items before diving into the most important ones.
- Include absolutely everything. Yes, I mean everything.
- Keep yourself feeling stress free … By this I mean to use your lists for work and play that way you get into the habit of creating (and using them more consistently) but on a realistic basis. As much as you’d like to finish everything in one day, that’s just not possible and most people, including myself, tend to overload them which then makes things impossible to complete. Adjust your expectations so you can feel good, feel accomplished and refreshed and most importantly stress-free!
- Be flexible with your time but do try to keep to some sort of schedule.
- Focus on one thing at a time. This is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP of everything I listed for you here. The key to an effective to-do list is that the list is prioritized, and you’re focused. The plan is to work your way down the list one simple step at a time.
And lastly, but equally as important as all the other above points …
START FRESH by making a new list every day. You don’t want the same ‘ol items clogging up your time and this will help keep efficient use of that time by not rinsing n’ repeating the similar tasks every day, all day. You want to make sure you get something done every 24 hours and aren’t just spending time doodling on notepads or making “surf the next” excuses.
When you make a to-do list, you should also make a to-not-do list. Warren Buffet was asked about the secret to success, and he said that it was staying no to almost everything. Some of those little tasks won’t matter as long as you get the big ones done.
~ Brian Tracy, Motivational Speaker and Self-Development Author
The BACK-UP PLAN:
If you just feel like the above action plan steps aren’t cutting it and you’re having a hard time getting into the groove of things, take a peak at some of the helpful steps below and give them a whirl. Then once you have these ones tackled to a comfortable level for yourself, go ahead and try to tackle the above action plan list again.
- Identify your top three priorities (aka. HIT list items) for each day at the top of your list. These are the most important things you want to accomplish in order to have a priority-focused day. Consider them three easy wins!
- Find yourself an accountability partner so that you don’t procrastinate. This person will help you stay on track so you can achieve the goals you set for yourself and your business.
- Create that to-not-do list as quoted by Brian Tracy above. Those are pure words of wisdom because the items on this list help you accomplish your ACTUAL to-do list filled with passions, goals and accomplishments.
- Use the 1-3-5 rule which is mapping out one big thing, three medium things and five smaller things you want to get done on a daily basis (and yes, those are what we like to call a reasonable number of items for your seemingly never-ending to-do list).
- Schedule some of the bigger action items into your daily calendar and keep the time you schedule it in for. This will help you stay on track and keep you in check for time.
- Review your lists(s) at the beginning and end of each day. Schedule this time into your calendar and use it to evaluate your lists. Cross off what was accomplished and Re-organize (and prioritize) what’s still pending that you’re able to tackle tomorrow.
- Purge your lists on a daily basis by being realistic with your goals. Meaning, if it’s not a short-term task it should be removed and placed into some sort of project management tools instead. I like Asana and Trello.
Let your ‘to-do’ list be those things that light your passion and watch your focus burn through every obstacle in the way.
~ Amy Larson, writer at AmyJalapeno.com
Okay, I know that was a lot of information to absorb in just one read but it’s best to keep in mind that when trying any new productivity method (or tool) it takes time to adjust. So, if you feel things just aren’t working out after only one day … Don’t give up! Give things at least 30 days. Trust me, you will be a productivity machine after eating up and implementing all this information in no time!
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