I love to do lists—they keep me on track and focused—and lately I’ve noticed that lists are everywhere! Whether it’s work tasks, ingredients in a recipe, wedding guests, places you want to travel and more, people use lists constantly in their daily lives.
To do lists are effective productivity tools when used correctly. However, these lists can disempower us when we get bogged down by our tasks. Learn how to effectively manage your to do list and boost efficiency with the strategies below!
1. Make a “done” list.
Creating a to do list can seem daunting, especially as tasks pile up. One way to alleviate this issue is to build a “done” list (a list of all the tasks you’ve completed). Creating this kind of list can help you:
- Increase motivation
- Challenge yourself to see how many tasks you can complete
- Feel a sense of accomplishment in the work you’ve done (this is why I love done lists)
That said, whenever you feel a sense of dread that you haven’t accomplished a lot, your done list will usually prove you wrong.
2. Estimate the amount of time each item takes.
When you build out your to dos, assign an estimated time for that task. This gives you a realistic idea of how many of your tasks you can actually accomplish that day.
As you do the task, keep note of how long it actually takes you to complete an item on your list and compare that to your estimate. Did you overestimate? This is a sign that big tasks actually seem larger than they are, and you can better manage your expectations in the future. Did you underestimate? You may be taking on too much, and should use this knowledge to better prioritize moving forward (this can decrease stress a lot!).
3. Create a visual list.
All humans are visual learners to an extent, so visual lists can help us understand the task better. Whether you draw a doodle on your list, add an image to it or simply lay it out in a kanban or other list style, visual aids will help you process your list better and be more productive. If you’re in need of a visual list, check out the Ultimate Productivity To-Do List.
4. Prioritize your list based on urgency and importance.
To do lists can be problematic when you add in every possible task under the sun, especially when those tasks aren’t important. To solve this problem, start thinking critically about the tasks you have to do and ask:
- Is this really important?
- Is this actually urgent?
More times than not, the answer is “No.”
You can use an importance/urgency matrix to help you better build and prioritize your to do list. Doing this helps you sort out crises from distractions, and whittles your list down to only those tasks that matter.
5. Use the 3 D’s.
This step builds off of the urgency/importance matrix above, but can also be used as a standalone. When you look at your to do list, ask yourself:
- Do: Will I do this?
- Delegate: Can I delegate this?
- Delete: Should I just delete this task?
Using the 3 D’s will help you create a to do list that matters, not one filled with fluff. When you consider the matrix in step 5, look at distractions and interruptions, and see if there are colleagues, or people you manage, that can take on these responsibilities. Then, delegate.
If you’re holding off on completing a task (and have been for a while), and you don’t see yourself completing it in the near future, delete it. If you evaluate and still believe it should be on your list, stop procrastinating and do it!
6. Swallow the frog.
This is an Accelity Marketing favorite when it comes to productivity tips. We all have that one task that seems like it will take a lot of time, or be incredibly difficult. Do you ever push it off? Don’t worry, I’m guilty of this, too.
Instead of pushing this task off, start your day by completing it! When you “swallow the frog,” the rest of your day will seem like a breeze, and you’ll feel more accomplished.
7. Keep your lists to a daily 5 task maximum.
When in doubt, cut your to do list down to bare bones. A to do list should be filled with important things that you can realistically accomplish that day (or week, if you still want to create a longer list). Having a daily list with 20 items isn’t realistic. Start managing your expectations better and be honest about what you know you can do. Remember, we’re not superheroes!
If your to do list is holding you back, something needs to change! Use the above tips to create a to do list that works for you and drives your productivity instead of hindering it.
Do you have other to do list musts? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!