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7 Expert-Approved Ways to Write a Better To-Do List

4. Drawing

It’s fine to use your own shorthand to write to-do lists as long as you can decipher it later. Consider doodling quick images to get your message across.

One study found that words are more likely to stick in our memories if we draw pictures of them instead of writing them down. Doing so also forces you to think them through ahead of time.

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7 Expert-Approved Ways to Write a Better To-Do List

7 Expert-Approved Ways to Write a Better To-Do List

http://mentalfloss.com/article/94735/7-expert-approved-ways-write-better-do-list

mentalfloss.com

7

Key Ideas

1. Time-Blocking

Time-blocking consists of assigning individual tasks to manageable time slots.

Instead of writing out short tasks alongside hours-long tasks on your list for the day and hoping you have enough time to tackle it all, this approach lets you set realistic goals for yourself one task at a time.

2. If/then Lists

To set reasonable goals make a list for high-energy days and another for when you are reluctant to work. Both lists should follow an “if/then” model.

The first lists should have the more involved tasks, while the second list should feature more mindless tasks like cleaning out your inbox, organizing your desk, or even napping.

3. Eisenhower Matrix

An Eisenhower Matrix breaks a to-do list into the four categories below:
  1. Has items that are both urgent and important, is to be tackled immediately.
  2. Items that are important but not urgent, can be scheduled for a later time.
  3. Tasks deemed urgent but not important can be delegated to others if possible
  4. Tasks that are neither urgent nor important should be crossed off the list altogether.

4. Drawing

It’s fine to use your own shorthand to write to-do lists as long as you can decipher it later. Consider doodling quick images to get your message across.

One study found that words are more likely to stick in our memories if we draw pictures of them instead of writing them down. Doing so also forces you to think them through ahead of time.

5. One-Three-Five List

A one-three-five list looks at task size, instead of time or urgency. Using it you can make more informed decisions when urgent tasks pop up and better prioritize your other work. To make one:
  • Fill the first slot with the biggest job of the day.
  • Pick three smaller, but still important tasks to fill out the middle of your list.
  • Finish it off with five items you can quickly take care of.

6. Kanban Board

A Kanban board helps you keep your day organized by visualizing the tasks ahead. To make one:
  • Start by finding a board, digital or otherwise. Keep in mind that the tasks will have to be moved within the board.
  • Fill with tasks the three columns—"To-Do, " "Doing, " and "Done".
  • Any items you complete should be relocated to the "Done" column, and any items you start from the "To-Do" section should move to "Doing. "
  • Place the board somewhere easy to glance at throughout the day, so you can easily visualize your progress.

7. Could-Do List

You can make a "could-do" list to weigh the importance of optional tasks. To do that:
  • Make a worksheet with columns for tasks, task duration, expenses, task desirability (scaled one to 10), and the return on your investment (scaled one to 10).
  • Based on those metrics, identify which items take priority.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Get Your System Under Control

Create 3 different to-do lists:

  • Important but non-time sensitive projects list
  • Items that need to be completed today list
  • Not-to-do list
The Not-to-do List

The purpose of this list is to know the tasks the are not important and are not worthwhile. There are a lot of things worthy of your time and getting rid of those unnecessary tasks will give you more time to complete more important tasks.

How to Make Your Don't Do List
  • Reevaluate your to-do list: Identify the goals and determine how the items in your list impact your aims.
  • Create your not to-do list: Cut those unimportant tasks in your to-do list and paste it on your no to-do list. By doing this, you must accept that your time is limited and commit on letting them go.
  • Evaluate new tasks: From then on, once a new assignment arrives, evaluate its importance and the effects of it with your goals.
In need of a makeover

A to-do list can be helpful but is often not used successfully. If you end the day with things undone or if you regularly carry tasks forward, you need a to-do list makeover.

Get clear on what's important
  • Most people are unaware of their priorities. Our priorities are the things that are most important to us right now. Not serving them is non-negotiable.

  • People are capable of having two or three priorities. More priorities leave them scattered and unfulfilled, filling their time with stuff that doesn't matter.

  • Once you know your priorities, everything on your to-do list should serve them. Look out for the 'shoulds' - they are not serving your priorities.

Give tasks a value

Look over your to-do list and assign every task a value, such as a dollar-per-hour amount that you might have to pay someone else to do it. Score tasks from $10 per hour for administrative tasks up to $10,000 per hour for high-level strategy and sales-related tasks.

By giving dollar-per-hour values to specific tasks, you ensure you use your resources correctly.

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Writing The List In The Morning

Although it might feel natural to create your to-do list first thing in the morning, it's too late.
Writing the list at the end of the day allows you to leave work behind and tra...

Including Too Many Tasks

Ideally, create a ‘top three’ tasks at the beginning of your to-do list. 

Long lists are a problem because most people aren’t aware that “we only have about three to six good hours of work in us each day.”

People also tend to underestimate how long a task takes. 

Including Someday Items

Aspirational tasks, like writing a book, don’t belong on a to-do list; instead, create a separate bucket list. 

Daily to-do lists should be focused. If you have a big project you want to complete, you can put it on your to-do list if you chunk it out into smaller, more attainable tasks.

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Lists to Organize Yourself Perfectly
  • Vision List - consists of everything you want to experience in life.
  • 100 Days List - all the task waiting for you in the next 100 day.
  • Personal Sprint Backlog ...
The Not-to-do List

A list of tasks you simply don't do: You delete them, delegate them, outsource them or simply say no when they try to find their way on your to-do list:

  • Things you want to say no
  • Distractions from being productive
  • Regular tasks you can delete, delegate, or outsource
  • Other people's responsibility
  • Small projects that get way on bigger projects
  • Emotionally draining tasks
  • Bad habits
  • Stuff that doesn't need to be done
  • Things that are out of control
  • Everything else that you can systematically eliminate and bring a bigger margin into your life.
Not-to-do List and Templates

When people ask you personally or via email something that you are struggling to decline, use templates. Templates are standard response you use to everyone. With the use of these, you refuse them politely without offending them. Also,  it saves you time and there's less emotional pressure compared to writing a decline every time.

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Make planning a habit
Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

Start by setting the alarm for you...

Align your to-do list with goals
  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.
Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.

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The Problem with To-Do Lists

To-do lists call our attention to tasks that are easy to quantify and complete. These tasks can feel more pressing and important than they really are and make us prioritize them while neglecting...

The Hunter Method
This method is inspired by early human survival tactics. "If the hunter made a successful hunt for that day, his family would eat. If not, they wouldn’t. It was that simple."
  • Choose one task that is going to be the focus of your day, even if it does not fill your whole day.
  • Write it on a Post-it note and stick it to your laptop.
  • Look at this note when your mind begins to wander.
What 'must-do' to choose

You'll find it is usually the thing you least want to do. It is not a meaningless errand or tedious office task. It's a significant item that will make you feel more fulfilled.

Writing helps your memory

When you take notes, you need to filter external information, summarize it in your head, and then write it down.

Your brain decides which pieces of information to hang onto for later, part...

To-do lists and calendars

Once you write down the tasks you need to perform, you then have to clear space in your day to put some of those tasks onto your calendar.

This calendar maintenance is itself a useful exercise for fighting the tide of interruptions you’re always facing. It pulls your brain out of a reactive mode and forces you to think about the long term. 

Planning your goals

Planning turns abstract goals into concrete work.

For most people, the challenge is making sure we get the big-picture projects done, those that make work fulfilling. And it's hard to achieve them without breaking them into a coherent set of concrete actions you can take on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Tips On How To Set Up To Do Lists
  • Start task names with a verb to make them more descriptive and easy to understand.
  • Break each task into smaller tasks.
  • Create temporary lists
Examples Of To Do Lists
  • Personal: for tasks that only apply to your personal life and are somewhat time sensitive.
  • Work: for work related tasks. You may want to create sister lists if your work is multifaceted. For instance: Work > Sales and Work > Acquisitions.
  • Someday: for tasks that you may want to achieve but not in the near future.
Basic Steps For Using a To-Do List
  1. Add tasks as they appear to the appropriate list, assigning a due date if possible.
  2. Before the day ends, check your lists for the tasks you want to do the next day. You can add a due date for it.
  3. Review the lists at the end of the day to have a clear idea of how your tomorrow will be and ensure you haven’t missed any tasks.
  4. In the morning open your to do list and choose the tasks you want to start with. Mark the important ones and focus on them first.

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The philosophy of working "smart"

... is to maximize your productivity when you are working so that you can get more stuff done in shorter periods of time.

By working smarter, you'll find yourself with more time in th...

Find the to-do list app that work for you

The best one for you depends entirely on your working style and personal preferences.

You can use a physical notebook around everywhere you go, but it's easier to use a to-do list app or tool that syncs across all your devices. That way, you can access your to-do items whenever and wherever you need to, whether you're at your desk, in a meeting, or on a business trip.

Prepare in advance

Write out your to-do list the day before:

  • You'll free your time to dive right into your to-do list in the morning - one of the most productive times of day.
  • It can help you spot obstacles ahead of time and prepare accordingly.
  • Knowing what you have going on well in advance could help you relax and sleep better the night before.

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The Planning Fallacy

We all have busy schedules, but we are incorrectly planning our day around the time we have, not around priorities.

Our estimates on how long certain tasks will take are almost always ...

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."
The 4 Kinds of Priorities

The Decision Matrix on how to approach tasks has 4 quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1: The Urgent Problems which are important.
  • Quadrant 2: Not Urgent but important tasks
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent but not really important
  • Quadrant  4: Distractions and time-wasting tasks. 

Prioritize the important (Quadrant 2) to attain maximum benefit from your work.

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