Creating an effective to do list

This year I have made a change to the way I create my to do list. In this post from a couple of years ago – 5 simple family organisation tools I shared the quartered to do list I used.

I used that to do list last year, but when I started using it again this year, I realised that this list was not really supporting the new single focused goal setting approach I was using. I actually found the to do list overwhelming and there were always so many items to carry over.

My to do list process

The creation of my to do list is now part of a broader process. It isn’t just a random list of tasks I need to do, but it is a list priortising tasks I need to do to help me achieve my goal.

This is how I am currently creating my to do list:

1. Each Sunday night, I write in my notebook (it is a reporter style notebook) everything that is on my mind that I know I need to do or would like to do for the upcoming week. Writing this list doesn’t mean that I have to complete all these tasks or that I would even have time to do half of them, but writing the list acts as mind clearing activity.

Often when we write a list, we don’t write down the most important thing first, but quite often just the most recent thing. Writing a full list makes sure I capture all of the important tasks. Writing a complete list also frees up my headspace as I don’t have to keep the list of activities in my head. This in turn helps me sleep better as I don’t have so much running through my mind as I lay down to sleep.

2. I then turn over the page and write at the top of the page, my goal for 2016, which is of course to create space in my life for creativity and calm and I will do this step each night as I write a to do list for the next day.

There is something about handwriting down your goal, that helps keep it top of mind and I find it allows me to make better decisions the next day, when I start on my tasks. Every time I look at my to do list for the day, I see my goal for the year.

3. Underneath the goal, I then write what key project or habit I am working on at the moment. Currently it is making handmade Christmas gifts. Just like with writing down my overall goal for the year, writing down my key project reminds me, this is where I should be allocating my time where possible.

4. Then underneath that I write the key tasks I want to complete the next day. I try to limit this to three tasks, maybe one or two more if the tasks are small.

5. At the end of the day, I review what I have achieved compared to what was on the list. If there is a big disparity I analyse whether the list was off target or if I was just distracted from the tasks.

I will then revisit my main list for the week, add any new items to it as needed and then repeat the process.

There have been two key benefits as a result of creating this new to do list process:

  • I no longer feel pressured by the list. My list for each day is short and focused. I am not distracted by trying to remember things that aren’t my focus for the day as I have a space where they are written down and I can easily come back to as needed.
  • I am completing more important tasks in a timely manner.

I look forward to writing my to do list each night for the sense of clarity and increased productivity it brings.

If you have tried using to do list before and have not been successful, check out this post of mine on 5 reasons why your to do list isn’t working as it might have some answers for you.

Like I have just done, it is important to find a to do list style that works for you and one that will help you achieve your goals.

What type of to do list do you use?