I have a Type A personality and I’m annoyingly organised so for me, writing to-do lists is as easy as colour coordinating my underwear or alphabetising my spice rack. For most people, writing to-do lists can be as overwhelming as actually completing the list itself. For some people even finding a pen and something to write on can present a major challenge.
For those of you to whom organisation does not come naturally, here are a few tips to help you write a kick-ass to-do list that will boost your productivity and make you heaps more sexy.*
1. Have a maximum of 3 items
Let’s face it, we’re all a bit lofty first thing in the morning and our sense of time is totally warped. When it’s 9am and you’re sitting at your desk with a never-ending landscape of time ahead of you, it’s easy to fill your to-do list with a hundred tasks that you’ll no doubt finish by lunchtime and then you can spend the afternoon ‘working on a side project’ or pumicing your callouses.
Truth? That’s not going to happen.
The trick is to be very discerning about your to do list and limit yourself to 3 items per day. 3 items doesn’t seem like much but once you’ve completed a report, replied to all your emails and made a start on a project plan, that can be almost a full days work right there. If you finish all your tasks before the day is over, just add 1 more thing to the list. Don’t set yourself up for failure by writing yourself a list of 20 impossible tasks everyday that you won’t complete and then send yourself into a spiral of self loathing, drowning yourself in cheap whisky and binge watching The New Girl. Make your goals achievable.
2. Be direct
Another common mistake that people make with their to do lists is that they are far too vague. So for example I’ll write ‘Smaggle content’ on my to do list and when I go to complete that item, I’m stumped. A much more effective way to write it is ‘Smaggle Wednesday – How to write a kick ass to do list’. Take as much of the guess-work out of the list as you can. Don’t set yourself up for a road block because Past You was too vague for Future You.
3. Write it the night before
In my experience, I’m much more conservative if I write my list the night before. If I write it in the morning I’m all high on breakfast endorphins and my brain thinks it’s totally plausible to write and submit 7 freelance articles before midday and learn how to edit videos in a brand new and highly complicated program. Tip: It’s not plausible nor is it possible so calm the frick down and be reasonable. Take a few moments well before bed time to prioritise what needs to be done and write it down ready for the next day. This will combat that pesky early morning optimism that has you listing unachievable dumb shit like ‘Write and self publish my Tyrion Lannister fan fiction novel’ on your list.
4. Time limit some tasks
People will naturally make a task fit however much time they have to do the task. Think about deadlines. How often do you complete a task in the last 5 minutes before it’s due? Set a timer. Give yourself 20 minutes to work on the task and then take a stretch/toilet/cup of tea break. Repeat until the task is completed. It’s a sure-fire way to get a task ticked off rather than spending all day procrastinating by watching people eat things on YouTube instead of knuckling down and getting shit done.
5. Show it to a friend
If you hold yourself accountable for the items that you’ve put on your list, you’re far more likely to achieve them. Try telling a work mate that you want to finish your project pitch or clear your inbox before lunch time and if you do, you’re allowed to go to a fancy cafe for lunch. The caveat is that you have to show your friend your completed work before you’re allowed to go. This works best if you choose a friend who gets off on power. Pick someone who’s strong enough to steal your car keys and cares enough about winning.
Do you write to-do lists? What are your to-do list rules?
* Sexiness levels may vary depending on who’s looking at you.