So You Want To Make A To Do List...
You're probably thinking this article is a joke.
"SJ it's as simple as writing things on a piece of paper and then doing them!"
In it's most simplistic form that's all a to do list is, however the majority of people that decide to make to do lists never actually accomplish the things they need to do.
They waste time trying to be productive and end up being more unproductive while arranging what they need to do!
Years ago I came to the conclusion I was drifting through each day, I knew what I needed to do but I never did it... after reading a handful of self development books, all of which embodied the exact same message (write down your goals and what you need to do each and every day!) each morning I'd make a monumental list of all the things running through my head that I needed to get done.
Most days I'd only put a minor dent (if any) in my to do list...
Why Most To Do Lists Fail
They Contain Too Many Things
A to-do list should only contain the most important, key tasks that need to be performed.
This is without a doubt the most common mistake I see.
It's all well and good spending the evening writing 20+ things you need to do but to wake up to what seems like a never-ending list can often result in paralysis by analysis, the sheer size of the list and the tasks on it are overwhelming... instead of chipping away at your tasks one at a time you don't know where to start, get discouraged and don't end up doing anything.
They're Not Specific
Your to do list, just like your list of goals should be as specific as possible.
For example, a poor to do list would contain entries such as:
- Do a workout
This really doesn't mean much.
What do you intend to write? How long does it have to be?
Are you reading a book? A newspaper?
What workout are you doing? What constitutes a good workout?
I used these three examples because they're on my to do list every day in one form or another, here's an example of some entries I had on last Wednesday's to do list which are far more specific...
- Write a blog article on how to plan a to do list correctly
- Finish reading John D. Rockerfeller biography & review highlighted notes
- Leg workout - emphasize high bar back squats and weighted pistol squats
They List Outcomes, Not Actions
If you're sailing a ship you can only move your sails, you can't control the direction and speed of the winds.
Instead of recording specific outcomes or results that you want, your to do list should contain the necessary action(s) to accomplish that outcome.
Bad examples include...
- Get 5,000 visitors to my website
- Gain 2lbs of muscle
The purpose of a to do list is to have a visible list of WHAT you actually NEED to DO.
If you're out and about and you leave your to do list on a piece of paper stuck to the fridge chances are you may not recall everything on it.
A to do list must be accessible.
Write a copy on paper and save an image of this in your phone, or type up this paper copy in the notepad app on your phone, that way its with you as you go about your day.
They're Ordered From Easiest To Hardest
Studies prove that our willpower is at its highest within the first couple of hours of the day.
Getting started with the miniscule tasks may leave you feeling good first thing in the morning however as the day progresses and you begin to slow down you're only just beginning to approach your hardest and most important tasks... this is a recipe for failure.
Hard tasks require willpower.
Willpower is at it's strongest early in the morning.
Do your hard tasks first thing in the morning while your willpower is strong.
The Keys To Making A To Do List That You'll Actually Get Done
Your To Do List Should Not Exceed 5 Items
Your to do list should contain ideally only 3 - 5 items.
Focus on tasks that produce big results.
If it only takes a couple of minutes it should not be on your list, if it's recreational then get your to do list first... then you can spend the rest of your day however you please.
A large list is a sign of poor organization and often leads to decreased willpower and paralysis by analysis.
Order Your To Do List In Order Of Importance
Studies show our willpower is at its highest peak within the first few hours of waking up.
Start your day the right way by waking up early and getting to work on that #1 most important item on your list, get this kicked off early in the day and rest will come easy.
"Succeed before the sun rises" and the rest of your day will be a breeze as you forge forwards with that positive momentum.
Forget The Multitasking Myth
Although multitasking has been proven to be inefficient it's still preached and performed from the college to the board room.
In order to crush your list you need to dedicate focus to each item, one at a time.
Get one job done right at a time.
Don't try and tick off 2 boxes by half assing a bunch of separate tasks, as chances are you'll have to redo them correctly later.
Carry Your To-Do List With You (Paper or Digital)
Don't leave your to-do list at home when you're out performing errands.
Keep it with you, be it on a note in your wallet or an app version on your phone.
If It Takes <2 Minutes It Doesn't Get Listed!
Tiny tasks should not make it to your to-do list, when you remember "oh I've got to put the rubbish bin out today" do it immediately.