To Do List – Design One That Works Effectively For You

To Do Lists - Love them or Loathe them?

To Do List – Design One That Works Effectively For YouMany of you reading this will use a To Do List as a tool that helps you to you track your activities and manage your time. Then again, there will be many readers who loath To Do Lists as they always seem to grow out of control because they’re too long or there are too many of them?

Maybe the solution is using a different kind of list. Take a look at your options for designing an effective To Do List, along with suggestions for using any productivity tool more effectively.

6 Tips for Designing a To Do List That Works for You

  1. Limit the length. Many experts recommend keeping your list as short as 3 to 5 items. Promptly cross off any tasks you complete. Move projects you’re unlikely to get to off to a separate wish list.
  2. Consider categories. If you prefer longer lists, categories are one way to stay organized. Separate business and personal items. Group similar activities like shopping, reading, or making phone calls.
  3. Juggle timelines. Maybe your projects are interrelated with structured stages and strict deadlines. Calendar functions and color-coding could help you strategize.
  4. Add detail. When you need more than a simple list, create a full log. Build in supplementary information like daily summaries, phone numbers, and websites you visit frequently.
  5. Block out your time. Do you tend to waste small blocks of time? Planning your day in 30-minute increments could help you spot when you’ll have 10 minutes free for filing or checking messages.
  6. Choose paper or digital. You may already know that GTD stands for Get Things Done, and there are a growing number of GTD apps to choose from. On the other hand, paper journals are still popular too. What matters is using them consistently.

7 Tips to Use Any To Do List Effectively

  1. Set priorities. A successful list lets you see your major responsibilities at a glance and approach them systematically. Arrange your list so your top concerns stand out.
  2. Distinguish between urgency and importance. Prioritizing raises some tricky questions. Picking up your dry cleaning before the shop closes in 10 minutes is urgent. Spending time with your friends is less time sensitive, but contributes more to your wellbeing. Pay attention to essentials that may otherwise be bumped.
  3. Automate routine tasks. Eliminate chores that robots and computers can do for you. Electronic banking frees up your time and gives you peace of mind knowing that your bills have been paid on time.
  4. Build in leeway. Studies show that most adults underestimate the time it takes to complete many everyday tasks. Give yourself an extra 10 minutes between appointments. Assume that a new dinner recipe may take you 20 minutes to pull together even if the cookbook claims you can do it in 10.
  5. Take a break. Put adequate rest and play on your list each day. It’s time well spent when it keeps you in top shape and prevents burnout.
  6. Expect surprises. However comprehensive your list is, you’re sometimes going to run into circumstances that you couldn’t predict. Be prepared to shuffle your other obligations to the next week if your car breaks down or you win a trip to a tropical resort.
  7. Evaluate your progress. Hold onto your lists so you can review them periodically. Repeat the practices that simplify your life and fix the patterns that are causing you delays.

Keep your personal and professional life in order. Whether you prefer writing in a notebook with colored markers or downloading the latest productivity app to multiple devices, there’s a To Do List that will help you to stay on top of your game.

Let us know how you use your To Do list

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Till Next Time

Mike Gardner is The Time Doctor

Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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10 thoughts on “To Do List – Design One That Works Effectively For You

  1. Hi Mike,

    Now I know my problem with to-do lists, and know I can fix it from this point forward. I love making the lists, but then I seem to go off the page when it comes time to finishing everything that I’ve written on them!

    The idea of limiting the list to several things, rather than a full page, might just work for me. That way, I can concentrate on getting the smaller list done before I feel as if I’m losing steam!

    Interruptions is another problem I experience. It always seems that when I’m knee-deep in productivity. the family comes barging in the door – even when they know they shouldn’t enter if the door is closed.

    This one is hard to control because I have no control over the untimely action of others. LOL Maybe one day?

    – Bonnie
    Bonnie Gean recently posted…How Hiring a Coach Stalled My Entrepreneurial SpiritMy Profile

  2. Top tips as always, Mike. I’m a fan of electronic to-do lists. For shopping lists, I don’t mind scratching off items as I throw them in the cart but for actions, I like having the electronic feature of clicking something as “Done” and having it drop right off the list. It feels like progress and it’s very liberating to get to the end of your list for the day and show nothing left looming.
    Rob Knowlan recently posted…Pushing GoodnessMy Profile

  3. I love my to-do list and find it helps me to stay on track. I have also been using a monthly calendar, which I print out. I use this to list my upcoming products and affiliate promotions. After taking a couple of weeks off I am actually working on my to-do list today! So great timing Mike.
    Sue recently posted…Making the Most of Your ContentMy Profile