Do you often make it through the day just putting out fires as they occur, trying to keep up? Creating and sticking to a schedule can help with managing time effectively. One helpful tool is to create a to-do list of action items that you need to get done. Over the years, I’ve tried different methods of writing a to-do list, which have worked for various purposes depending on my goals at the time.
Why is it important to make to-do lists?
Making lists and prioritizing tasks helps you become more likely to accomplish your goals and reach your dreams. It also provides a way to track your progress and keep you motivated to move forward. To-do lists are great for both personal and professional use. You can use a paper and pen notebook to track it all or there are lots of great digital apps to organize tasks by category.
I’ll share some of the methods I’ve used to create to-do lists with you here.
THE EVERYTHING LIST
I like to call this list the everything list because it’s more or less a brain dump of all that has to be done. Sometimes I make columns for personal and work action items to keep them separate, but I just get it all down on paper (or digital). I’ve seen others refer to this method as the grocery list method because it’s just basically keeping a running tab of tasks as they pop into your brain.
Top Three to Five
For me, this method is helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Instead of literally writing everything down that needs to get done, I write 3-5 MANAGEABLE items at a time. Then, when I’m able to cross them all off, I write 3-5 more items to accomplish. It’s comparable to time blocking a schedule. It’s focusing me to be intentional about what I want to accomplish within a certain timeframe.
This method takes the everything method and then rearranges it based on your priorities. It’s easier to do this with a digital task management system because you can easily cut and paste the items and move them up and down on your list. One way to prioritize is to use the Eisenhower matrix. Some people even recommend a simple lettering system next to your tasks with A being the most important item to tackle first.
Big and Small
This type of a to-do list breaks task into big and small tasks. You can think of them in time commitment. If it’s something like sending an email that will take 5 minutes to write, that could be considered a small task. If it’s completing an annual report, that might be a bigger task. Sometimes it’s more helpful to break up those big tasks into smaller ones and cross of those milestones as you reach them.
No matter how you organize your tasks, the best thing to do is find what works for you. The physical act of crossing something off on paper to me feels so good that even though I manage my longer term and ongoing tasks in a digital app, I still create a daily list of items that need to get done. I also try to keep it realistic so as not to get disappointed if I don’t get everything crossed off my list.