A lot of people struggle with getting things done. Having too many tasks to do within too little time is a triggering factor. Not knowing which task to finish first, let alone start, is another possible reason.
If you want to finish tasks, the first thing you should do is define them. After all, you can’t hit a target without knowing what it looks like and where it is. This is when planning the perfect to-do list becomes useful.
Ideally, to-do lists help you achieve long-term and short-term goals. They also assist you in improving yourself and your career, while still regarding your health and happiness. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you plan the perfect to-do list and reap its rewards.
Step 1 – Choose your tools
Sticky notes, memo pads, and boards don’t work for everyone. Alternately, not everyone likes virtual to-do lists either.
It’s up to you to decide which tools to use. If you spend so much time checking your phone or computer, productivity and note-taking apps will suit you. On the other hand, if you love to do things the traditional way, then use sticky notes, memo pads, or boards.
You should have a journal at the least, though. Use it to keep lists of your goals, tasks, and accomplishments. It’s also advisable to have at least two copies of your to-do lists for each day.
Step 2 – Set a time for planning and stick to it
Making the perfect to-do list for the first time may take you at least 30 minutes. However, planning the succeeding lists of daily tasks will only take around five minutes.
Before sleeping and after waking up are two of the best times to do your list. You can also do it at your lunchtime. Just make sure you decide on a schedule, and stick to it.
Step 3 – List down your long-term and short-term goals
This is where you start defining what you want to achieve in your career this year and in the next five and ten years. What kind of reputation do you wish to continue and/or to develop? Jot down your answer no matter how vague it seems.
Include short-term goals as well. These may cover addressing problems like a limited number of clients, high-cost of supplies, and low return of investments.
Don’t forget your work-life balance and health. Record your favorite recreational activities. List down your checkups, both the annual ones and those due to a recent condition. Feel free to write as many goals as you want.
You’ll only need to do this once. Every few months though, you have to go over your goals and see if they’re still relevant to you. If you like to add new goals, you have to remove the same amount of goals in your previous list.
Step 4 – Divide your goals into yearly, monthly and weekly ones
It’s frustrating when you can’t tick the boxes for many tasks. To avoid that, sort your goals as yearly and monthly ones. Eliminate those that won’t add up to your professional and personal life.
You have to re-define your goals as well. They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART). In this step, you’ll become aware of your future tasks.
Step 5 – Break down monthly and weekly goals into specific and manageable daily tasks
If you can automate some tasks, do it. If there are tasks that take a long time and a lot of effort, get help. Trying to save money by doing everything on your own may end up costing you more. As for the remaining monthly goals, sort them into different weeks. Further, specify the weekly goals into daily tasks.
Be mindful of day-specific tasks, too. Write down dates of meetings and visits. Allot the needed time and the scheduled hour for the said tasks. Do the same thing if you have to attend conferences and ceremonies.
Step 6 – Decide two MITs for each day
Most Important Tasks (MITs) are usually the ones pertinent to your job. To ensure completion and avoid burnout, stick to only two MITs in one day.
You should finish at least one of the MITs every day. One productivity tip is to do the MIT before anything else. It’s bound to be the most draining task for the day. But once you finish it, all the other tasks will feel easier.
Step 7 – List down a maximum of 10 tasks a day
Keep in mind the recommended number of MITs for a day. As for the other tasks, you can include simple ones like updating a client, ordering supplies and filing a report. Calling a friend, sorting out trash, doing laundry, shopping gifts or visiting your dentist may also serve as less important tasks in your to-do lists.
Step 8 – Indicate the needed time and/or the schedule for each task
When specifying the time for each task, make sure there’s a buffer for the next task. Ten to 15 minutes are the recommended buffer or transition time. This will help prepare you mentally for the next task.
Step 9 – Include details for each task whenever necessary
If you intend to contact people, indicate their phone numbers and/or email addresses in your list. If you’re going to a meeting, jot down the address. If you’re ordering office supplies, itemize them.
Step 10 – Make your list accessible to you and to key people
Avoid forgetting your tasks by making your list visible. Place it in your fridge or bathroom mirror. If you use sticky notes, put them on or near your desk or computer.
Aside from that, consider sharing your list to your loved ones or co-workers. This way, you’ll feel more accountable to finish your tasks.
Step 11 – Before the day ends, mark tasks you’ve finished
The perfect to-do list is something functional. Thus, creating doesn’t end by sorting out goals and sharing them with key people. Before you sleep, spend a minute going over your list and marking those you’ve finished. This is one of the satisfying things about making such lists.
Step 12 – Prioritize unfinished MIT in your next daily to-do list
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you failed to finish tasks in your list. You can include unfinished tasks for the next list. Contemplate on the relevance of some unfinished tasks as well. If you realize they’re unnecessary, remove them. Make sure you allot time for MITs though, both the unfinished one from yesterday and the pre-planned one.
Step 13 – Record your accomplishments at the end of each week
Instead of spending time finding motivation, use your progress to inspire yourself to keep going. You can do so when you review your previous to-do lists and record the finished MITs at the end of each week. If possible, indicate the percentage of your progress towards your monthly and yearly goals.
While to-do lists are helpful, you should keep in mind that your life shouldn’t revolve around them all the time. At least once a month, go through a day without planning anything in advance. Use it to relax and explore. Afterward, go back to the routine of creating your to-do list and marking finished tasks.