These days, there are all kinds of ways to get things done, and many people find that a to-do list is just what they need to stay on task. But not every mind works the same way and not every t0-do list will work for everyone.
If you want to hack your to-do list and make it custom-fit for you and your life, you have to consider a few different things. Do you want to use a traditional notepad, or would you rather go electronic? How seriously techie are you? How can you create the ideal tool for yourself?
Coach Tip: Google Sheets offers several templates that will help you get things done – check them out here. Other apps I love for getting things done are Google Calendar, Evernote, IdeaGrowr and Trello. And for my editorial calendar and daily schedule, I use a manually-written teacher’s planner that I’ve modified to fit my needs. 🙂
How do you get things done? What kind of to-do list do you think could work best for you?
Okay, so we know that to do lists help you track your activities and manage your time. Then again, what happens when your lists 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.
TO-DO LIST HACKS: How to Build 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.
Tip: I find that a combination of the two works best for me. Check out my post on which electronic tools I use every day (over at OnlineWritingPro.com).
TO DO LIST HACKS: How 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.
Okay, now it’s your turn! What are your best to-do list hacks? Share them in the comments.