I love planning and I’ll find any excuse to write a list to get things organised. But I do have a particular way of writing my to-do list and organising my time which I’ve found very effective. So if you’re keen to improve your to-do list and then keep reading!
Start simple with a brain dump
The first step to improving your to-do list is to do a brain dump. Start simple by brain-dumping all of your thoughts and to-dos onto a piece of paper. When doing a brain dump, the idea is to basically write down all of those thoughts taking up space in your mind and weighing you down. Keep adding tasks to your brain dump until you can’t think of anything else you want or need to do.
If I have tasks for both my my blog and personal life then I add a small heading to the top of my brain dump. Such as “home” or “blog”, just to separate the two lists and to help get everything out of my mind and onto paper.
Define the purpose
The second step to improving your to-do list is to define the purpose of your tasks. What results you are trying to achieve? By doing this you’re able to see which tasks you need to prioritise and which tasks you might have missed completely.
Defining your purpose means you are much more likely to achieve the results you want. When you work from a to-do list with no purpose you end up avoiding the important tasks which will bring you results, and you waste your time doing busy work. Busy work are tasks which make you feel productive but they don’t help you reach your goals.
And while busy work makes you feel satisfied and productive in the short term, in the long run you will feel the opposite as you’re not any closer to achieving your goals.
So for step two, on another piece of paper write down the results you want to achieve. This way you can see which tasks are not helping you achieve your goals.
Here are two examples of my own:
- Home improvements I can do around the house without needing Ash’s help (my Finance) and without spending much money.
- Get feedback from Those Positive Thoughts readers, to gain a better understanding of what they want help with
These examples all have a purpose, they also have several tasks which need to be done to achieve the result desired.
So before you move on to step three, write out the results you want to achieve.
Get clear on your actions
So far you’ve done a brain dump to release all of your thoughts and to-dos onto paper. You’ve also written down your goals and the results you want to achieve, to make sure your list isn’t full of “busy work”.
The third step to improve your to-do list is to write down the actions you need to take underneath each of your goals (from step two). When doing this step, try to be as detailed as possible by writing down every action you will need to take. The more detail you put the easy it will make it when it comes to reaching your goal. As you won’t underestimate how difficult it will be or how long it might take.
Have a look at what you’ve written down in step two and write down every little step you need to take to achieve it. For example, for my goal “Get feedback from TPT readers..”, the steps I will take are as follows:
- Write out survey questions in a word document
- Create a free survey in survey monkey
- Write a weekly email to subscribers asking them to take part in a survey
- Add a link to the survey in a weekly email
- Schedule email to be sent out on Sunday
- 7 days after emailing, send a follow-up email to all subscribers who have not yet done the survey
- Download all responses from Survey Monkey
- Reviews responses
It can be quite tedious to write down every single step you need to do, but by doing this you can be sure that you get it done and that you’re clear on what exactly you need to do. You’re not going to over or underestimate how long the task will take.
As sometimes a task can feel big and scary, but when you take the time to sit down and write what you need to do, you realise that it wasn’t as daunting as you thought.
By the way, if your goal doesn’t require step-by-step actions, then you can still do this step. For example, one of the goals from step 2 was “Home improvements I can do around the house…”. For this I have written the following actions:
- Measure the chimney breast and photos to create a gallery wall on the chimney breast
- Measure the living room and get skirting board quotes
- Give the beam in the living room a second coat of paint
- Choose and test the paint colour for my shed
- Paint window seal in bedroom
- Weed flower bed in front and back garden and add grass seed
Add a time duration
The fourth step to improve your to-do list is to add a time duration next to each task. This step is important and will seriously help improve your to-do list and help you stay organised and reach your goals. Next to each action which you wrote down in step 3, write how long each task will take you to do. Try to keep it simple by either choosing 15, 30, 45, 60 minutes and so on, as this will make it easier to add each task to your calendar.
Even if you haven’t done the task before and you’re not 100% sure how long the task will take, you should be able to have a good guess and you can also overestimate the duration of the task. That way you won’t feel rushed when it comes to doing the task. For example, when I write my weekly email to my subscribers, I allow one hour, even though sometimes it only takes 30 minutes.
The good thing about breaking down each goal into small steps is that it gives you a good idea of how long each task will take, as opposed to wondering how long it will take to reach the end result.
Once you’ve written down the duration next to each task, you might feel a little overwhelmed. However it’s the same list, it just has a lot more clarity now. We overestimate how much we can achieve in a day and underestimate what we can achieve in a lifetime. This means it takes small steps every single day to make great results. Every day might feel like you’re not achieving much but over time you can achieve amazing things, remember that.
Update your calendar
The final step to improve your to-do list is to add everything to your calendar! I really love this part, because it means I can schedule my time, see how my days and weeks look and when I can start seeing the results I’m working towards.
Before adding your tasks from your list to your calendar, it’s a good idea to first add in your other commitments. Such as work, school, working out, downtime and seeing friends and family. Doing this first means you won’t pack too much work into your day giving you a good work-life balance.
If you don’t want to add every single commitment to your calendar, just be aware of what time you are going to want to switch off to relax and keep days free to unwind and see friends and family. And lastly, keep a few breaks between each task to allow time to overrun.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful, if you have any questions just let me know in the comments below.