Learn 6 steps to make a to-do list you can stick with, and see how to start a routine to accomplish daily tasks and weekly goals.
To-do lists are literally the bread and butter of how I make it through life. I’m working three jobs, all of them full time (don’t ask me how that works, it makes no sense) and managing my home and family, too. Without a structured list every single day, I’d probably be huddled up the corner of the bathroom crying and nervously laughing at the same time.
But a to-do list isn’t just some tasks thrown onto a piece of paper and slapped onto the refrigerator. If that’s how you do it, you’re going to fail every time. Instead, your list should involve careful planning and logical thinking.
What Makes A Good To-Do List?
Like I said earlier, it actually takes some thought to create your list. Sure, you can write down everything you want and/or need to do. But that list is going to quickly get out of hand and you’re going to either get stressed out, burnt out, or lose focus altogether. In order to get the important things done, you need to focus on what’s actually important in the first place.
When Do You Need A To-Do List?
I use a to-do list every single day. I never skip a day, I never assume I don’t need one, and I never forget about it. Even if it’s a Sunday that I don’t plan on working at all and I have no chores to do and no errands to run, I still make one. Because in reality, there’s always something to do. And if you don’t do anything, it all piles up until one day you have too much to do and not enough time to do it.
If I find myself with little to do on a specific day, I work ahead. If I’m done early with my daily cleaning schedule and I’ve got some time to kill, I’ll go ahead and knock out tomorrow’s cleaning task because I know I’ve got to be at my son’s school at 6 for Open House. I know that even though I plan on being there for an hour, I’ll run into someone I haven’t seen in a while, start chatting, and the next thing I know that hour has turned into two. By staying ahead, I’m not rushing around like that psycho rabbit in Wonderland.
How To Rock Your To-Do List
I adopted my method from a book called Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. I read it about a year ago and I’ve noticed incredible changes in my life, my productivity, and my mindset. I highly, highly recommend you read it, even if you just buy the audio book and listen to it in the car while you’re driving. (Hello Multitasking!)
I start my week on Sunday evening by jotting down my goals for the next seven days. In no particular order, I write down everything I need to accomplish. Not that I want to do, but things that are absolutely positively imperative that I complete. I don’t break it down into a categories like life and home and work. I just cluster up everything I have to do no matter what.
Then I draw a line under that list and write out all the things I want to do. These aren’t always fun things, they’re just stuff I’d like to get to if I can. I keep this list handy (in my planner on my desk) and I refer back to it every morning when I make my to-do list for the day.
Daily To-Do List
Every morning, as part of my daily routine, I write out my to-do list for the day. I never do this ahead of time, because I know things will always come up at the last minute and throw off my entire plan. So I sit down with my cup of tea and look over my list of weekly goals. I start with the “Need To” section and see what I can apply to today’s tasks.
I also add in day-specific tasks and even basic things like “pick up Noah from school.” Yes, I know I’m doing this either way, but by putting it on the list, it will receive a priority. And prioritizing is what makes the list work.
After I’ve made my list (again, in no specific order) I go back through and give everything a priority. Starting with the very most important (the one that must be done first) I label it with the letter A. Then I label the following tasks with B, C, D, E, and so on, based solely on importance. Not what I want to do, or when I want to do them. Just importance.
I also give myself the flexibility to know that anything past the letter F can be moved to another day if I don’t get to it. Just by giving myself the “OK” to let some things go, as long as I complete my most important tasks, keeps me from feeling overwhelmed with that list. I know that if I don’t make it to that letter F, it’s not important enough to worry about. I can always push it to tomorrow’s list.
Only after I’ve completed everything on my “Need To” list within my weekly goals, do I start on the “Want To” things. Remember, these are the afterthoughts. You can only start on them after you’ve done what you absolutely positively needed to do.
My biggest tip for rocking your own to-do list is to be honest with yourself. You know you can’t knock out an entire alphabet of chores in one day. It’s not even close to possible. An overly ambitious to-do list is just going to slow you down and make you feel crappy about yourself when you don’t even make it halfway through.
By being realistic in your goals, you’re setting yourself up for completing the list and feeling great about doing it again tomorrow. I suggest when you’re first starting out to only make short lists. If you end up doing more, that’s great. But only writing down your most important tasks will help you avoid a mini-freak out.
- Make A List Of Weekly Goals On Sunday
- Make A List Of Daily Tasks First Thing In The Morning
- Give All Tasks A Priority Starting With The Letter A And Moving Through The Alphabet
- Work On The Most Important Task First
- Allow Yourself To Push Back Lesser Important Tasks
- Be Realistic With Timeframes
Share Your Opinions
Do you currently make daily and weekly to-do lists? Is your current method working? Have you read the book Eat That Frog! and applied its principles? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic of to-do lists in the comment section below!