Whether you’re a full-time blogger or business owner, work from home or work at an agency, there’s something we all have in common: the to-do list. Yes, the dreaded to-do list. It can provide us with either an overwhelming sense of dread or accomplishment. Often times the feeling when get from our list depends on two things: when we’re looking at it and how we manage the list.
Obviously, if you’re looking at your to-do list for the next day before you sign off for the evening or first thing in the morning, it’s going to give you a sense of dread. You might even start feeling overwhelmed at all you have to get done long before you even have to start working. While looking at your list after a day or week of work, you’re going to feel a sense of accomplishment, that is – if you actually got things done.
However, how can we start to take back control of our to-do list so that we not only don’t dread creating one or even looking at one, but also get the most out of it? Well, here are a few tips to do just that!
Create a “today’s top 3” for every list
This was something I was first introduced to back when I had my Day Designer. I loved the idea because it allowed me to take the three most important things I had to get done for the day and note them in a special place so that I couldn’t forget to do them. Now, I realize that not everyone has one of those planners, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still create this section for yourself.
If you jot your to do’s on a plain notepad, put the top three at the very top. If you’re working from a planner, either put yours at the top or find a way to note what the most important things are. This could be with double exclamations (!!), an asterisk, or just simply bolding the items so they stand out a little more. This will help you see the most important things so that you’re more likely to work on them than several little tasks!
Organize your list with similar items
Depending on what you do, you might find that you’ve got a pretty lengthy list of big and little items, with things like “answer so-and-so’s email” popping up several times. If you know you’ve got several tasks related to your email, organize them all together so that you’re more likely to complete the other similar tasks once you’ve done one of them.
If you don’t have lots of similar tasks, organize your list by how long something should take you. If you’ve got a few emails to answer, social media to schedule, and a small errand to do around the house that would all take about 5-10 minutes to do each, put those things together. When you know something won’t take too long, you’re more likely to do it. You’re even more likely when you can easily see what’s next on your list instead of hunting for the next task to fill in the 30 minutes of free time you have before lunch!
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Create your list the day before
Want to know a super easy way to forget to do something you need to get done? Simple: just don’t right it down. Or worse say, “I’ll jot that down… in a few.” while you’re still answering emails or doing other tasks. Instead of waiting until a few hours before your work day begins to write things down, spend a few minutes the day before to schedule what you need to get done the next day. That way instead of spending a ton of time trying to figure out what you should be doing that day or forgetting what you should be doing, you can start work with a plan already in place.
Bonus points on this one: as soon as you set a deadline for something – put it in your planner or make a note of it for that day. For example, the second I say, “Yes, I’ll get your logos uploaded on such-and-such day.” I not only set the deadline in Basecamp, but I go on ahead and put it in my planner so that I absolutely can’t forget.
Above all, don’t spend more time working on or obsessing over your to-do list than actually working or living life. Life is far, far too short to become a slave to our daily task list!