How To Make An Effective To-Do List

Get things done meaningfully and timely with these 6 tips

While you probably know how to make a to-do list, but there are a lot of strategies you can use to make your to-do list more effective. Here’s how to be efficient, practical and actually get things done in a manner you know you can keep up with.

1. Write it all down

Maura suggesting thinking of your life as a 1000-piece puzzle. Each puzzle piece is an item on your to-do list. That’s a lot to keep in your head.

To make it more manageable, we often try to take just 50 of those puzzle pieces away. But as we all know, you can’t solve a puzzle unless you have all the pieces.

So, it all has to go on one list. Yes, seriously, write every single thing you need to do down in one place — this is your master list.

Writing down your to-do items gets them out of your brain so you can focus. But, Maura cautions, don’t just grab the closest piece of paper…

2. Go digital

An easy way to get everything you need to do onto one list is to go digital. A digital to-do list allows you to organize and adapt the list as you need to, in real time.

This list is a living and breathing object. If you try to do make it on paper, you’ll likely end up with a mess (or a lot of erasing and re-writing). Maura recommends Todoist because it’s intuitive to use and it has comprehensive set of tools that lets you customize it to your needs.

3. Prioritize and sort

Once you’ve written down all of your to-do items, it’s time to prioritize and sort them! Here are some categories Maura suggests using for your to do list:

  • Projects: These are the big, long-term to do items you’re working on.
  • Waiting for: If you’ve sent off a proposal and are waiting for a response, it goes here. Bonus points for adding a check-in date.
  • Future: These are items that aren’t ready to be worked on quite yet, but will be coming up soon. These items should have a start date attached to them.
  • Next actions: Your next actions are the single step items that you’re going to take care of in a timely matter. Each action item should have a due date and be prioritized by that date.

4. Create your daily to-do list

To create your daily to-do list, pull from your list of “next actions.” Just keep in mind that this daily list should be limited to three to five items.

By limiting the tasks you set for yourself each day, you’re giving yourself an achievable goal. Too many items on your list can leave you feeling unaccomplished at the end of the day.

5. Estimate the time you need

When you place an item on your to-do list, try to estimate the amount of time you’ll need to complete it. This will help you to complete small tasks in those spare moments you find during the day, and save the bigger tasks for times when you won’t be disrupted.

6. Write your to-dos the night before

When you write down your tasks the night before, you’re setting up what you want to get done the next day. This can help you to set your priorities, instead of letting distractions or your a flood of emails in your inbox set your priorities.

Keep in mind: your to-do list might fluctuate. You may need to reprioritize your list mid-day to incorporate something pressing that came in. That’s ok! And that’s when an easily changeable digital to-do list comes in handy.

What are some things that help you check off the things you need to get done? I’d love to know more of your thoughts in the comments.

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