Tag Archives: lists

Tips for Better To-Do Lists

Shows to-do list in the background. List states "to do....everything!" and has a stickman holding his head. The post title, "Tips for Better To-Do Lists' is superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I have become something of a to-do list aficionado.  I’ve been religiously using lists since having children.  That’s over 20 years of list making.

I’ve changed the way I’ve handled lists over the years and have adapted other people’s methods into my own process.   I frequently return to an article written by Eric Barker for Time Magazine: “The Morning Routine Experts Recommend for Peak Productivity.”   It makes a lot of sense to me, from the ‘magic hours’  to the ‘starting ritual,’ to the ‘3 things that matter today.’

The low-tech list: For a while I was using an app to help me prioritize (135 List, which is free and works well for anyone trying to get in a habit of prioritizing). Now I’ve made the process even simpler.  I have a Notepad (digital…comes with PCs) text file saved for every day of the week:  Monday To-Do, Tuesday To-Do, etc.  I put the three big things I most want to accomplish at the top. Then I put the things that could be shifted to another day’s list at the bottom.  If errands are on my list, I copy-paste the list to my online calendar.  At the end of the day, whatever didn’t get accomplished is portioned out to the following day (or other days, if the next day is too busy).

Reevaluate the list in the afternoon: I realized 4 years ago that one list per day wasn’t really going to cut it for me anymore.  I needed to reevaluate in the early afternoon because some things became less-important and some things became more pressing.  This way, I’m still being thoughtful about my list and my tasks and not simply reacting to things that pop up. But I’m also incorporating things that pop up (sometimes they are important and need immediate attention).

Set timers to avoid a time-suck…or procrastination:   I use timers a lot: both for writing and promo.  I just type ‘set timer for 7 minutes’ into Google and let my computer keep track.  Timers work well for me for two reasons: one, it helps me avoid procrastination. If I know I need to update my website, seeing that I’ve allotted ten minutes for the task makes it a lot less-daunting.  Another reason timers work well for me is that they help keep me on task and focused.

Don’t  turn your list into a braindump:  There is definitely a place for an all-inclusive list…a braindump of a list that includes writing, promo, blogging, the dog’s vet checkup, Christmas shopping, etc.  But my advice is to have that master list separate from your to-do list.  The whole idea is to make the daily list manageable and approachable.   Then work in tasks from the master list to the daily list (breaking them down into bite-sized bits, if needed).

Are you a list person?  How do you set up your lists?

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Photo credit: john.schultz via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA