If you have a love-hate relationship with to-lists, this post is for you. Making a daily to-do list may be a habit you’ve been doing a long time now but have you ever stopped to ask yourself how much this habit is really benefiting you? Is it really making you more productive? Or is it just making you feel like you are? Is it really helping you tackle your chores with a more stress-free mindset? Or is it actually causing you overwhelm and making you feel more stressed out?
To-do lists can be an amazing way to help you have a productive day, remind you of your tasks at hand and create headspace rather than the pressure of trying to remember everything. The humble to-do list can sometimes also be a source of anxiousness, stress and end up less than motivating though. They are all too often too overcommitting, too forgotten, too long, too short, too confusing, too vague and too repeated and boring. The overwhelming feeling of never ending tasks along with the common need for ‘perfection’ in society today is having a major impact on women’s mental and physical health. This need causes severe stress which we all know, is a feeling we need to avoid and manage however best we can.
In order to get maximum results from your to-do list writing (and limited negative ones!), it is therefore important and very useful to re-evaluate how you not just tackle, but also how you go about creating them. To make your to-do list carry out it’s role as productively as possible requires you to put some thought into it, and have a defined process behind how you choose to approach them.
Like with everything, there is no ‘one size fits all’ best approach to them but here are some to-do lists methods we recommend giving a try so that you can test out what works best for you and help you actually get stuff DONE in the least stressful and most productive way.
When it comes to the what can feel like a never ending stream of tasks we have on a daily basis, prioritisation is key. Instead if just writing one long list of everything you hope to complete that day, have a go at splitting this list into two. Make one column on the left for the tasks that are a top priority and need to be achieved that day, no question. On the right, then make a column for the remaining tasks on your mind that you would ideally like to also achieve that day, but if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Be strict with yourself about this too, don’t touch the right column until you have successfully completed your tasks on the left.
Keeping it simple and laying out your tasks in these two separate columns helps you think strategically about what will really move you forward (either professionally or personally) at that moment. This prioritisation allows you to regularly evaluate your tasks at hand, goals and set yourself a realistic timeframe. It gives you a more specific, clearer focus which results in you being able to more efficiently tackle these key tasks without being distracted by other, less important ones occupying your mind to get done that day. By getting the more challenging and most difficult tasks done earlier on, you also spark momentum to keep productively completing your other tasks throughout the rest of your day.
Similar to prioritising your to-do list in terms of importance, prioritising and ordering your tasks in terms of the energy they require to complete is another effective way of laying out your list. Either write your list then go back through it putting it in numerical order of energy requirement or go straight into list writing with this in mind. Be strategic about your energy and how you can dedicate it the most beneficial way for you. It’s also good to bear in mind when you have most energy when thinking about how to tackle the list. If you’re a morning person and know that you are most productive towards the beginning of your day, tackle the most energy requiring tasks first thing. However, if you tend to be more focused later on, you can time completing the tasks with this in mind.
Be honest with yourself about the level of energy that is really necessary to exert on tasks too. Are they tasks that really do require a lot of attention and need to be completed to a high standard? Or are they tasks where the quality does not matter so much, they just need to be got done? The less you can put pressure on yourself to achieve ‘perfection’ in all the tasks at hand, the better.
When it comes to tasks and energy, it is also important to not ignore the fact that occasionally those smaller, menial tasks that you don’t regard as a top priority, can actually start taking up a large amount of mind space. These smaller tasks can sometimes therefore end up becoming huge energy sucks because you keep putting them off which really bothering you. Rather than letting these tasks drain anymore of your mental energy, put them at the top and get them done. You will discover a new source of energy that can then be re-focused on tasks of higher priority.
Writing tomorrows list the night before
If you are someone who would rather have their tasks already written down and ready for them to crack on with in the morning, then why not also give writing your next days to-do list the night before a go! Not only may going about them this way help you have a more peaceful sleep as you get everything down on paper and off your mind before you call it a night, but it also gives you one less thing to focus on when you wake up. It helps you start your day with clarity, knowing exactly where you need to start. You just give the list a glance in the morning and you’re good to go!
Master weekly lists
Another way to approach your to-do list which you may find more helpful and less stress inducing, is to make one long one at the beginning of your week. Master weekly plans are a great way to give yourself an overall idea of your upcoming schedule. They can help you view what days are going to look like, when you will be busiest, and how you can plan the rest of your weekly activities in order to ensure that you don’t end up sacrificing anything you don’t want to due to overcommitting and under planning.
By making these weekly lists, you prepare yourself for the week that lies ahead which gives you a mental awareness of how much energy will be required and how much down time you can allow yourself prior to making any extra, last minute commitments. It enables you to visualise your week and go about your day with tomorrows tasks, plans and goals also in mind.
Making a separate ‘mind-dump’ list
Far too often we are filling up our to-do lists with tasks and thoughts that are on our minds but we know realistically aren’t going to be achieved that day, week or even month! Mindlessly writing these on your to-do lists isn’t going to be beneficial for you at the moment, instead it’s just going to make your list look longer, less achievable and add to any already existent stress.
Instead of putting yourself through this, one approach we LOVE is a mind-dump list. This is a separate list where you write down everything on your mind surrounding your tasks or goals to just get them out of your head. You then put this list away and keep it out of sight! This is NOT your to-do list, this is a psychic release. If you aren’t taking action on tasks you keep putting on and not ticking off your to-do list, then worrying about them is just wasting your energy. Put them on your mind-dump list and save them for when the time comes that you are in a place to actually complete them.
In need of more lifestyle hacks? Take a read at our other lifestyle posts.
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