For me, To-do lists are the key to successfully completing my never ending list of tasks in a day and act as a great reminder of the tasks I need to get done.
To-do lists also prevent work overload (I know we’ve all been there!) and allow you to gradually and effectively complete your tasks in order of importance. Try not to make your To-do lists too extensive, though, as it’s so easy to get carried away and end up writing everything you have to do down in the next 3 months, and then all of a sudden you’ve overwhelmed yourself with work.
HOW I WRITE MY TO DO LISTS:
I tend to write my To-do lists the evening before I plan on getting everything done. This means that I go to bed knowing what I have to do the next day and knowing I have a structure to my day. I always use pen and paper and rarely write my To-do lists on my phone or my laptop. This is only personal preference as I tend to engage more with the tasks I need to get done when I’ve physically written it down and left it out in clear view, rather than typing a To-do list in my notes on my phone or laptop and forgetting all about it.
I usually start by writing the most important tasks I need to get done and end with the least important tasks. This way, I’m reminded of the important things I need to get done (I have a memory like a sieve!). I go through the list after I have written it and put a star next to the tasks (the star method) that I need to be prioritising most, which can act as an extra reminder that the task is important and I need to do it and not procrastinate (inevitably, though, there is always an element of procrastination somewhere…).
I also make sure my To-do list is visible and I can see it. I tend to use either a notebook and leave it open (or rip the page out and stick it on my pin board), or use sticky notes and stick them up around me. I don’t know whether I do this because it’s so satisfying ripping them down when I’ve completed the task on it (rather than ticking off tasks written in a notebook), or because sticking them up and having them around you acts as an extra reminder of the tasks I need to do. Either way works great though!
So what makes To-do lists so important?
To-do lists help you become more reliable. If you’re able to balance tasks and complete important work, this shows your ability to stick to deadlines and be a reliable team member, friend or colleague. This characteristic can even help you with your career progression.
To-do lists help you to learn how to prioritise. By writing your list of tasks in order of importance and using the star method (as explained above), you are able to effectively manage your workload and ensure you are getting those important tasks done first.
To-do lists allow you time for yourself, your friends and your goals. Although I’m sure my friends don’t enjoy the thought that I’ve scheduled them into my To-do list as “Call Harriet at 2pm”, it enables me to stay connected with the important people in my life and helps me to not feel guilty about taking time ‘out’ of the day to do these things.
Remember not to punish yourself if you don’t get everything done.
As I’ve said above, it’s so easy to get carried away when writing your To-do list and end up writing way more than you can handle in a day. One task may take longer than you anticipated to complete, or you may find life is getting in the way and pulling you away from completing the tasks, or you’ve quite frankly just written too much.
If this is the case, do not fear! Instead of punishing yourself and worrying about the tasks you haven’t managed to complete, keep in mind the tasks you have managed to complete and that every tick is progress.
You may also have some time to still complete the tasks you haven’t managed to complete, or that the task may be a work in progress and is something that may take a while to do. If this is the case, remind yourself of the progress you have made so far, and be proud of that!