How to Create an Effective To-Do List

How to Create an Effective To-Do List
To-do lists are excellent tools for motivation, project management and organization. They’re simple to set up, yet difficult to keep up to date. Work piles on, commitments change and suddenly, that perfectly curated list is filled with a mess of outdated tasks and long-lost goals.
How can you get that promotion and keep your household in check without a plan, or an organized route to help you get there? Well, things do happen by chance, but I wouldn’t bank on it.
Though it would be an ideal trait to possess the memory of Rain Man and remember every single task you need to do, most of us forget what we had for lunch let alone our lengthy work duties. So, if you’re looking to stay on track of your responsibilities or advance a certain aspect of your life, to-do lists that are effective and convenient to use are gold. Bright, shiny gold.
To most successful people, their to-do lists are their personal masterpieces. A simple artwork that tells a story of their day and the weeks to follow. They use them to keep the wheel turning and to ensure their lives are situated on the right path. The path they want to be on. The path that keeps them productive.
So, if you’re looking for that magic to-do list, here are a few tips:

1. Keep your to-do list in a convenient place

Find one central and convenient place to keep your to-do list. If your duties and initiatives are stored in too many places, you likely won’t be able to maintain updating them all. In fact, you’ll probably just prolong disorganized tendencies.
So, decide what platform works best for you and use it to your advantage. Are you more of an excel spreadsheet person? An app person? Or a good old-fashioned journaling guru? Pick the one that you not only spend the most time on but also the one you feel more inclined to use. Once you have that part nailed down, forego the rest.

2. Make a routine of updating your list

The more you do something, the more it becomes an inherent routine and a part of your daily exercise. So, add at least 30 minutes in your calendar or as a reminder on your phone for daily to-do list maintenance. You can use this time to:
  • Add in new tasks
  • Delete old tasks
  • Prioritize work (see tip number 4)
  • Plan for the day
  • Book meetings

3. Add deadlines to each task

Not all work requires a firm deadline, but when you attach one to each task, you learn to become accountable for them. It also helps to ensure that the tasks you know that you should do but don’t necessarily ‘have to’, remain visible and important.

4. Ensure all tasks are neatly prioritized (reminder: not everything is a priority)

Prioritizing not only helps you to get the important work done first, but it also helps you to visualize the steps you need to take to accomplish projects or to get noticed in the office. Though it can feel like everything is a priority, that mindset only creates panic and produces idle habits.
So, use your daily to-do list maintenance to separate your tasks into three piles – urgent, semi-important and not pressing. Be careful not to add too many things under urgent and be realistic about what you can and should accomplish in a day.

5. Separate the big picture goals

The targets and goals you set out for yourself should be kept in a separate place. Sometimes these big achievements distract you from the minor steps you need to take each day. It’s not that you shouldn’t review them frequently or make adjustments but don’t let them take away from the daily work you need to fulfill.

6. Manage time on repeating tasks

If you’re finding that your days are too overwhelming, understanding the time it takes to do specific tasks can help to clarify where your time is being taken up.
The next time you go to do a weekly report, a daily catch-up or any other recurring job, add time limits to each and decide whether or not you need to delegate things more or change them.

7. Ensure all tasks are clear and concise

When you write down new tasks on your to-do list, they should be written in a format that is easy to read but also clear enough to understand when you go back to them. Spend the time tidying up each task, so that you limit future confusion and avoid stress.
Ok, a convenient to-do list may not be magic or derived from a cloud of gold dust. But it is essential to your overall output and helps to produce productive habits. The kind that enhances and advances all areas of your life.
Individually, these useful tactics are great to use, but together they build a masterpiece and a fundamental tool that allows you to action vital goals and to stay clear in your intent.
So, let the artist (you) create and watch the masterpiece (your to-do list) flourish.
Caitlin Kerr

Written by

Caitlin Kerr