Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to do To-Do Lists

Not all to-do lists are created equal. And not all lead to productivity.

Have you ever had a to-do list that was so long, every time you looked at it, all it made you want to do was look away

Or are you the kind of person who writes to do items on your hand, or says "it's all up here," and doesn't write anything down at all? (lol)

I recently adopted a to-do list method that has absolutely changed the way I get things done and made a huge difference in both my productivity and ability to enjoy free time, and I wanted to share it with you.

I've always had a to-do list (I actually had a Palm Pilot in high school and college - I know, I know, Nerd Alert!), and for the longest time I'd just keep this growing list of everything I had to do.

My Palm Pilot broke on my last day of college (symbolic, right?) and I began keeping my to-do list in a word document on my work computer. Again, a growing, monstrous list, where things would be deleted as they were completed. It worked okay enough.

But last year I started working from home. Suddenly, my to-do list became my everything. For the first time I really was the only one in charge of my days, and every moment counted. 

For a while, my same to-do routine reigned. But I found myself feeling anxious as my list seemed to never end, and it was hard to pinpoint where all my time was going.

So a few months ago I started something different. I had read about a similar method somewhere (sorry I can't remember exactly where - I read too much) where you just write the top three to-do items for the day and complete those before you do anything else. 

Here is what I do:

1) I use the notebook layout on Microsoft Word.

2) I have a tab marked Urgent and a tab marked Not Urgent.

3) On the Urgent page, I have the title, in bold, "3 Most Important Things." Every night I decide what the three most important things I need to accomplish that next day, the ones that would bring the most results, and things that I could realistically accomplish in one day. 

Then after a few spaces, the rest of my running to-do list awaits, but I can't touch it until my top three are completed. Also a rule: "check email" is never allowed in the top 3. 

4) I try to keep no more than eight to ten to-do items on my Urgent tab, and put the rest on my Not Urgent tab. When you see too many to-do items you tend to feel overwhelmed. Focus on what's important and urgent first and then move on to other non-urgent but still important things.

5) When I complete something I use the strikethrough format to cross it out. At the bottom of my Urgent page I have a title that says "Completed Tasks for the Week" where I copy/paste each accomplished item at the end of the day. Then, by Friday, I can look at everything crossed out that I did that week and realize where my time went. It feels a lot better than having the proof just disappear.  

I have been amazed at how this method has changed my level of productivity and feeling of accomplishment each day. 

There are many ways to manage the things you have to get done every day, and the key is to experiment and find a way that works best for you. Feel free to share your favorite method or to-do list app or website on the Facebook page!

You'll know your method is working when you are accomplishing important and valuable tasks each day, and feeling accomplished by the time the moon comes out.

You'll also know it's working when you can watch two hours of The Bachelor and not feel guilty because you know you got your most important tasks completed already ;) 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Isa! I've been feeling so overwhelmed this week with all the stuff I have to do. This is such a great idea. Phew- you just saved my life! :)


What do you think?