HOW TO WRITE AN EFFECTIVE TO DO LIST (THAT ACTUALLY WORKS)
Love them or hate them, an effective To Do List can be your secret weapon – if used properly. Over the years I have honed my To Do List skills; it has allowed me to run this blog, travel the world, create social media content, coach beginner bloggers, host workshops, consult to big brands about their social media strategies and set up a new business, Your Creative Start. Yup! And breathe… But I would be lying if I said I followed my To Do List for verbatim everyday. I too get caught out by distractions and suffer from procrastination - living by the beach with my boyfriend can do that. And I welcome that, but sometimes I really need to make sure my To Do List gets done. So then how do I write an effective to do list that actually works?
I MAKE SURE MY DESK IS TIDY I am a very organised person and if my desk is cluttered, then my mind feels cluttered. As I work from home, I make sure my desk is neat and tidy before I go to bed. This ensures I am not spending 30 minutes at the start of my day wasting time tidying my desk when I should be getting stuck into my To Do List.
I USE A NOTEBOOK AND PEN I LOVE There is no point writing an effective To Do List if I don’t love my notebook or pen! I know a lot of my friends prefer to use stylish notebooks but I love using this notebook and these pens. Some of you may not prefer the traditional pen and paper method; whichever make sure it’s a device/medium you love.
I WRITE TWO TO DO LISTS Yes, call me crazy but I have found the most effective way to write a To Do List is to write everything down, then separate these tasks into two lists – tasks I need to get done that day, and tasks that can wait until the following day. I devote my attention to the first list; this means I am not wasting time on tasks that are not a high priority.
I WRITE MY TO DO LIST THE NIGHT BEFORE Writing my To Do List the night before means I have cleared my mind of tasks I need to complete the next day. If I don’t, my thoughts are cluttered and it can take me ages to get to sleep. When I write my To Do List the night before, I hit the ground running in the morning.
I KEEP IT SIMPLE AND SPECIFIC I don’t like to overcomplicate my To Do List, so I keep it simple by ensuring there isn’t more than 10 items on my list per day. I also make sure my tasks are specific. In the past I used to write ‘finish blog post’, but now I am more specific ‘finish writing blog post, select, edit and name final images from blog post, choose keyword for SEO, upload copy and images, schedule post’. You get my drift?
I ALLOCATE TIMES AGAINST TASKS This is one of my killer tools for writing an effective to do list. Once I have finished writing my list, I quickly write down how long I anticipate each task will take. This allows me to see if I have allocated two many tasks in one day, and it also makes me accountable to get them done.
I EXERCISE IN THE MORNING I exercise every morning; it leaves me feeling energised, motivated and happy. If I am feeling great in the morning, I know it’s going to be easy to tackle my To Do List.
I KNOW SMALL TASKS CAN TAKE UP MY TIME This is something not everyone is aware of but sometimes, and often, the somewhat smaller tasks actually end up taking the longest. A perfect example is my Instagram content; I think it’s going to take half an hour to plan one week of content but it can take up to two hours due to editing, copy writing, planning and scheduling
BONUS: When I travel abroad and across several time zones, I use Schedugram to help me schedule posts onto Instagram. It’s an excellent tool to use, especially when I know I won’t have wifi.
I DON’T LOOK AT EMAILS When I sit down for the day, I don’t check my emails as they are distracting and time consuming. I wait until I have finished my most important tasks on my To Do List before I look at emails.
I DO ADMIN TASKS IN THE AFTERNOON I am my most productive first thing in the morning and in the evening, so I don’t do my admin tasks – invoicing, banking, travel receipts – until the afternoon. This is when I am feeling sluggish. So I often get out of the house for a couple of hours or go to the gym with my boyfriend.
I LOOK AT WHAT I HAVEN’T DONE In the afternoon when I have a break, I re-evaluate my To Do List to see what I haven’t done and what new tasks have popped up during the day. I quickly reprioritise this list so when I come back to my desk later that day, I know what needs to get done.
I MAKE A NEW TO DO LIST EVERYDAY I write a new To Do List everyday to ensure the same old tasks don’t clog my list. It’s actually a really useful way to make sure I get sh*t done.
I LOOK BACK AT TASKS I’VE COMPLETED Call me crazy but I like to look back at the tasks I’ve completed. It reminds me what I’ve done in case I forget down the track but it also reminds me how productive I’ve been (or not been).