How to Make a Super Effective To-Do List

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February 14, 2014
Sup guys. Happy Valentine's Day!! If you're a lover, I hope you're having a lovely day/night. If you're single, do not watch any Nicholas Sparks movies. Trust me. It's a mistake. 

Anyways, let's get going. In case you haven't noticed, I'm obsessed with planning and organizing and making lists and scheduling and planning. I'm very analytical minded. I'm also a student, I have a job + a blog (surprise!). And of course, what happens when you mix that? An insatiable lust for to-do lists. Yes. I make about six a day on average. So basically, I'm an expert.

You might make to-do lists + hopefully, they help you get stuff done. BUT, I thought I'd share a couple of the things I've learned that can help you karate chop your way through that list.

Write out everything.

Some people definitely disagree with this one, so feel free to ignore it. But when I make my to-do list every day, I write down absolutely everything I have to do. That includes brushing my teeth (or at least 'morning routine'), eating lunch, and exercising. Just because it's on the to-do list doesn't mean it's work, it just means I'm planning time for it in my day. BUT notice I said write down the things you have to do. Not everything you 'could do.' Keep it simple so that you don't get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things on your to-do list. 

Choose concrete tasks.

Okay, you've heard this. Don't say 'work on design project'. Try writing 'insert picture from email + design border for the hello blurb' or something applicable to what you do. Make your tasks small + manageable too. Instead of 'clean the house', try 'take out the trash, wipe down kitchen counters + pick up clothes on bedroom floor.' Cleaning the house sounds scary but anyone can do those three little tasks!

Prioritize your tasks.

The second thing I do is prioritize all of my tasks by how important they are. The things with the soonest deadline are first and the last things are the items that I want to work on + should work on but that there will be no tangible consequence if I don't (i.e. I won't get fired). I just write a circled number next to each task; it only takes a minute. This helps me make sure that my most important tasks (sometimes called MITs or MVTs if you read productivity blogs) get done before the marginal things.

Set time goals.

Look at each item. If it's something you're going to want to do for awhile or might get caught up in (aka catch up on blog reading or emailing), set a time limit for, say, 30 minutes. You can even plan to have two chunks of 30 minutes at different times of the day. 

Then, see if you have any items that are time-based that you need a goal length of time. For me, that might be reading for a class. I don't technically have to do it, so if I don't have a goal, yeah I'm stopping after fifteen minutes so I can retreat to Netflix. For items like this, set a goal time (such as 30 minutes). For every other item, just write an estimated amount of time. This will help you be realistic about how much time you have in a day + how much you can get done. 

Plan out your day.

Our your afternoon or lunch break or whatever. Think about how much time you have and how much of that time you can actually work. Pick items, based on your priorities, until you have enough goal tasks to fill up your day. I like to start with something productive but relatively quick. If I have just a small piece of a design left for a client, I'll do it right off the bat. By starting off my day getting something done, I've set my pace for the rest of the day. When I'm planning out my day, I like to write out each of my tasks in order + create a loose time schedule to my day. My schedules are fluid (which is why I change them about six times a day haha) but they can still keep me on track.

Plan space into your day.

I've been working with this system for maybe a year now, so I know pretty well how long everything takes me. I cushion 5-10 minutes in between every task in case is takes longer than I expect or I run into some other roadblock. Also, every few hours, I plan 20-30 minutes that is meant for a real break. Walking around, talking to people, and getting outside are all great ways to take a mini-break + refresh yourself for finishing your to-do list. 

To-do lists: love 'em or leave 'em? Do you have a method for getting things done?

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