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How To Make A To Do List (And Why Most People Do It Wrong)

So You Want To Make A To Do List...

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

make a to do list 2They 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.

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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:

  • Write
  • Read
  • 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
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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

They're Forgotten

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.

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How To Write An Article A Day

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.

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4 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Do

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.

It's bullshit.

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.

What's Your Take On How To Make A To Do List? Let Me Know In The Comments Below!

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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