How to Make a To Do List - Are You Doing It the Right Way?
Is Stress Eating Away at You?
Do you wake up every morning and ask the same questions:
- What do I need to get done today?
- How am I going to find the time to get everything accomplished?
Do you have a million ideas and tasks floating around in your head, and you're wondering "How the heck am I going to get everything done!?"
If that is you then you are NOT alone.
According to this study by the American Psychological Association, 61% of people report being stressed by work.
Now they don't specify what type of work, but we can surmise that they were talking about all tasks which you have to do.
So for the sake of argument we will assume that 61% of all individuals are stressed not only by the micromanaging of their boss, but also about the mountains of laundry they have waiting for them at home.
Worrying about all that we have to do, and stressing about future tasks won't help us overcome them, but being better prepared will at least make things a little easier.
So why don't we begin creating and implementing a tiny tool that'll help us feel more organized and in control of our chaos: a handy to-do list!
Why You SHOULD Make A To-Do List
“Wake up with determination and go to bed with satisfaction” -Quote adapted from George Lorimer.
We all have a lot of stuff we want to get done everyday, and when we fall into bed after a hard day's work, we want to feel accomplished.
Well a to-do list can do just that and a few other things too.
Making A Good To-Do list Can Help:
- Reduce your anxiety -No more anxiety attacks and stress headaches here
- Feel less overwhelmed -So you can actually get stuff done
- Make sure everything DOES get done -Check all the boxes on your day and feel proud of yourself
- Get work done WHEN it's supposed to be -No more late payment charges
- Improve your time management -Get more done with less time!
Reduce your stress -Getting stuff out of your mind and onto paper can alleviate the unnecessary tension of having to remember it all and forget nothing!
When tasks are written down and visible, they are easier to organize and make sure that everything is getting done.
Yes, keeping track of everything you have going on, and all the tasks that need to be completed IS POSSIBLE, with a great to-do!
WHERE To Make Your To-Do List
First off, don't get stressed thinking it's going to have to be fancy, that just because you can't write as beautifully as those on Pinterest, that you shouldn't even bother.
You don't need to create a complex spreadsheet or buy an expensive day organizer either.
Just a regular piece of paper will work just fine, or you can even just scribble your to-do list on the back of a spam piece of mail!
Make it wherever you want.
To Handwrite or Not
Using paper and pen has become popular over the last few years.
With technology taking over every part of our lives, some people try to find ways to disconnect from it all, so writing your to-do list with pen and paper may be just the kind of mind-clearing you're looking for!
In fact, a study performed by the same association referenced earlier (albeit a few years prior) mentioned that the 6th most prevalent cause of stress in people is media overload!
Maybe best to just write this one out.
Are You More Of A Tech Girl?
If you can't bare to be separated from your phone, that's okay too.
There are a lot of really good scheduling apps out there, and Trello is very popular! It allows you to keep all your tasks and documents in one place, and is also very user friendly.
Personally, I know a lot of people who love Trello, and while I did enjoy how you can change the background to your liking, instead of a plain boring white one that you find everywhere else, it still isn't my favorite.
So if you're looking for other options, I highly suggest you take a look through this thorough post of the best to-do apps for this year.
If you don't want to use an app, the simple notes function on your phone works great too!
This is a wonderful way to create and organize basic lists on your phone as you always have your phone with you and handy in case if you need to pull it out and reference something.
In the end, what REALLY matters is that you find a way to keep track of your tasks that works for YOU as an individual.
1. Getting Down To It - Creating Your To-Do List
Just Get It Down To Start
When you find the time to sit, write ALL the tasks you have on your mind (or type them).
This is called brain dumping, and it can do WONDERS for relieving the mass of overload that has been weighing heavily on your brain.
Holding onto all these "must remembers" can unconsciously stress you and plug up your ability to work best cognitively.
David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done with Work Life Balance" had this to say on the topic,
Your conscious mind... is a focusing tool, not a storage place. You can think about only two or three things at once. But the incomplete items are still being stored in the short-term-memory space. And as with RAM, there’s limited capacity; there’s only so much “stuff” you can store in there and still have that part of your brain function at a high level. Most people walk around with their RAM bursting at the seams. They’re constantly distracted, their focus disturbed by their own internal mental overload.
Stop trying to remember it all and giving yourself mental overload. Just write it down! Now, and from now on...
Once it is on paper your mind can essentially forget it. Now you can put your brain's power to better use by focusing on getting things done well than on trying to remember all the random "stuff."
What Not To Include
Be sure NOT to write down the "guaranteed to happen" stuff.
Looking at an even longer list may lead to you feeling overwhelmed and then not getting anything done at all.
Plus, there is no need to include tasks that are a habit of your everyday life and that you already know you’ll be doing.
For instance, stuff like "Brush my teeth" doesn't need to be written down.
This is (or should be!) a regular habit in your life and doesn't need any prompting, or to be scheduled into a certain day of your week in order to make sure it gets completed.
We're Just Getting Started...
Now the list you have just created is NOT your to-do list that you will be using on a daily basis.
I personally made this mistake for years, and it led to even more stress.
I wondered why if a to-do list was supposed to help me did I feel so overwhelmed when looking at all I still had to finish.
Apparently this is a common mistake many others make as well.
Have you been doing this too?
This is not the end of the process, as you have just created your MASTER LIST.
It's important to not use this brain dump list too much moving forward as I imagine it's quite long being that you're such a busy lady!
Instead, use this as a guide to create your next few narrowed down lists.
2. Make Topic Specific Lists
The next step will be to break that list down into more manageable, specific groupings.
One simple way to do this is to separate your tasks by work, personal life, and household tasks such as the following:
- Read and respond to all your emails
- Write up notes for the morning meeting and send them to all attendees
- Create a slideshow presentation
- Sign and scan all important documents
- Schedule your bosses' appointments
- Fill in that specific data sheet you've been putting off
- Meet your best friend at the gym for a workout
- Actually drink your daily water
- Schedule your daughter's birthday party and send out invitations
- Take specific baby steps to lose the weight! -Finally!
- Practice a little of that language you always told yourself you would learn
- Schedule that girlfriend time instead of indefinitely saying "Let's meet up."
- Clean and fold laundry
- Actually put that laundry away
- Sweep floors and mop floors
- Wash all the dishes
- Grocery shop (And don't forget those specific ingredients you ran out of)
- Cook meals (And bring extras to your friend who just gave birth)
- Of yah, and all that stuff outside too! Yikes!
Now of course, depending upon where you work, your list may look very different than ours. And depending upon your life goals, your personal list will probably be vastly different as well.
But for most, the list of household chores will be the same, so if you're looking to save time or want some inspiration for creating that list, here is a really good one. Why do more work when it's already been done for you?
The writer conveniently has household chores broken down by day, week, month, and year, and she offers a free printable to-do checklist for chores to help you out! She also talks about delegation which is SO important and which we'll discuss later on too.
Here are some other GREAT list ideas you could make that'll help you feel a little more in control of your life: A list for groceries, People's birthdays, Books you want to read, Places you want to visit, When which stores have which sales, Prayer requests, and so much more.
Really anything that you deem important enough to remember is important enough to write a list about.
So section your Master list into a few smaller groups and take any extra time you need to write down additional chores you just now thought of.
As another example, here is my actual shopping list stored right in my phone.
Having a specific list JUST for shopping makes going to the store easier because I know EXACTLY what I need.
This has saved me so much time by cutting out the guesswork, and saved me money too by preventing me from buying stuff I already have at home.
This is the power of lists!
(This is using Samsung Notes.)
3. Organize Your New Lists
The next step is to put your narrowed lists into an order that'll help you feel accomplished.
Again, this is a step that many don't do, or overlook, but the more organized you make your lists, the more you'll make them work for you.
What Order To Put Them In
Well it depends.
Some people prefer to warm up to large tasks by working from smallest chores to biggest.
This is a wonderful way to get a bunch of little things done and off your plate.
The momentum you get from checking off your boxes, and the relief you feel from getting stuff done, may help carry you on to tackle the bigger elephants that need bites taken out of them.
On the flip side, some prefer to jump right in and tackle the biggest to-do first.
When they wake up, they take advantage of their body's natural rhythm and increased brain function to hack at that mountain of a to-do.
Consider what Dr. Tara Swart, a neuroscientist, had to say about using this technique in her article,
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin take a natural 24-hour dip at around 3 p.m. So it’s worth arranging challenging meetings or complex tasks that are likely to be most cognitively demanding, early in the day. That’s the time when your brain energy is at its peak, so make sure you’re taking advantage of it.
Similarly, Mark Twain had this funny little saying, "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
I think we can guess which method he was more fond of.
Whatever method you decide is fine, but remember, if it doesn't work you can always switch it up later. In fact, why not try both ways and see which one works better for you?
HOW To Order Them
If you're working with pen and paper, it wouldn't be time efficient to rewrite everything in a different order, although you certainly could if you wanted to.
An option you might instead consider would be to highlight each task based upon importance, such as:
- Orange for urgent
- Yellow for important but not urgent
- Green for least important
This will also add a fun pop of color to your otherwise plain list, and why not make it as fun and colorful as you want it to be considering that you'll be looking at it everyday?
If you're using an electronic organizer, you can easily rearrange the order of everything how you see fit, and you might even add some colors too!
A third option would be to break this specific list down even further into smaller groupings of priorities 1,2, and 3.
4. Take Some Stuff Off Your Plate - DELEGATE!
Put Your Family To Work
If you have items on your lists that you can hand off to others, make sure you do!
It will free up a lot of your time, and you might even come to realize how much you were putting on yourself that wasn't even all your burden to bear.
A prime example of this would be household chores.
According to research performed by the University College of London, referenced in this article, on average women spend 16 hours of their week on household chores while their husbands spend only 6!
Think about how much other stuff you could get done, if you just handed off one single hour of chores to your man.
You could also enlist your children.
They'll need to learn how to take care of chores at some point, so why not start now.
An example would be to have them bring their dishes to the kitchen, scrape off the scraps, and then put it in the dishwasher.
Although it may be something small and simple, when added up all these little things really suck your time, and any little bit helps.
If you're trying to lessen your load and can afford hiring companies that specialize in services, like a professional rug cleaning company, or a professional lawn care service, it's a wonderful way to go to make sure your tasks get done, and get done well!
But, what if you don't have the extra cash to spare?
While there are plenty of more expensive services you can hire, you don't need to be wealthy to get a little extra help completing your to-dos.
If you're needing help with outside chores, consider hiring a teenager who lives on your street.
I bet they would LOVE to make a few small bucks by mowing your lawn.
It might not be the prettiest, but it will get done and you won't have to do it!
Another option would be to make a post asking for help in your community Facebook group.
I made such a post and was able to find a wonderful young woman who was willing to clean my entire house for 1/5 the cost that cleaning companies were quoting me!
The best part was that the young lady needed the money because she couldn't find a job, and I saved a lot while also freeing up my time.
We even ended up becoming good friends, and just last week she brought me a surprise bottle of wine for my birthday.
Basically, don't shy away from hiring out if you really need help!
There are plenty of people who would love to work for you who won't charge an arm and a leg. Plus, hiring the "little guy" could be a win-win for you both.
5. Schedule Your To-Do List - Put It Into Your Calendar
Why You REALLY Should Schedule Your To-Dos
I guess you're technically done now. You have a great to-do! But unless you put it to action and actually get that stuff accomplished, what good did it do you?
The actionable step that makes all the difference in making your to-dos to-dones is scheduling a time to do them. If you don't, they may just remain on your list indefinitely.
This is the last, but most important (and again often overlooked) part of writing a proper to-do list.
Giving these important tasks a date and time to sit down and work on them will ENSURE that you get them completed!
A great habit to get into is to block off time to create your Weekly Do lists... on a weekly basis. Surprise.
This way you will always have an updated plan for the coming days, and you will prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed by getting too far behind.
Sundays are a great day to do this as you can plan for everything in advance, and get an overview of all that needs to happen for the next 7 days.
This is key to ensuring that nothing gets missed and falls off the wagon until it's due tomorrow or is long forgotten!
If you do decide to add your tasks to specified time slots across your week, this will lead to Daily Dos now on your schedule.
With this, it is VERY important to not expect too much of yourself.
Seeing your day broken up into tasks helps with assessing how much time a chore will take of your day, but be sure to REALISTICALLY assign enough time for each.
If you don't you'll be falling behind, and getting disappointed in yourself.
Where To Schedule Them
For getting your to-dos off a list and into a calendar you have a few options available.
For Pen and Paper Users:
You can take a wall calendar you already have and write in the chores for that day. You can also just draw a little schedule on a scrap of paper.
Although either of these certainly can work, a big draw back to them is not having blocked off time, which is THE reason why you are putting your tasks into a schedule in the first place.
It's really about creating time slots for each task to get done so that you have the pressure to accomplish it within that time frame, and before the next task is scheduled.
You aren't just making another list for your day, although that is more helpful than not.
You might find that purchasing a cute little planner with time slots written out for you is easier.
But, of course you can also write this out yourself, being sure to include starting and ending times.
For Tech Users:
I highly suggest Google Calendar.
It's free and can be accessed on desktop as well as by mobile, so you can always have your schedule/list at your finger tips.
It's a great tool that can be used to electronically schedule times when you will accomplish your tasks.
It even sends you reminders to let you know it's time to move onto the next chore, if you set it to do so.
If Google Calendar isn't for you, that's totally fine. Here's a great list of other calendar apps complete with thorough explanations of each.
At the end of your week, if there are still tasks on your list that need to be scheduled (or you didn't accomplish), don't fret.
Simply add them to next week's list making sure to account for any increased priorities as due dates move closer.
This will help with any anxiety about not completing everything.
6. Finally - Do Your Tasks!
This part can be difficult for perfectionists.
But at the end of the day, your tasks need to be accomplished, and often times things just being done okay is better than not done at all!
Consider, is your boss going to notice that your notes for the morning meeting weren't as detailed as they could have been, or is he going to notice that you just didn't do them?
It may help ease your worry to remember there is no wrong or right way to complete your tasks. It's all about trial and error.
If you start with one way and you're still not completing your to-dos, try a different way.
Just don't let your need for the chore to be done perfectly get in your way of doing it.
Most importantly, make SURE you are completing your chores within the time frame you gave yourself.
Don't think of that time amount as optional or something that is a gentle guideline.
In order to make it work you have to make yourself stick to it.
If you simply can't get it done in that time frame, then NEXT week allot more for it.
Respect the time slots.
What To Do When Your Schedule Is Full
When marking down all your stuff, you will eventually realize that there isn't enough time in a week or even a month to get all you want accomplished. Here is where your prioritization and delegation come back in.
First, make sure to remind yourself that everything WILL get done.
Even if there isn't enough room on the calendar, since the tasks are on your Master List you're not going to forget about them.
At any point you can look down and see them, and with your priorities properly set from earlier, you know which ones are most important, so they are EVEN LESS likely to be missed.
No need to worry.
Next, access if you're being too much of a perfectionist on something and taking up more time than was allotted for it on your schedule.
That task is now taking time away from something else.
If you're scheduled way out on your calendar and still have a long to-do list waiting to be filled in, cease and desist with needing tasks to be done perfectly!
Next time try caring a LITTLE less about the end result (I know it's hard).
Maybe block off more time for it, or instead hand it off to someone who can complete it faster.
Speaking of delegating, if you still have a lot on your plate, consider delegating even more, hiring out, or simply eliminating! Gasp.
Moving Forward - Keep Your Lists Up-To-Date
Now that you have a couple of great organized to-do lists, and they are added to your schedule based upon priority, AND you are getting them done, you need to come up with a solidified system to keep them going.
Don't let all the hard work you just did be wasted by letting stuff fall to the wayside.
Make a point to habitually update your to-dos AND calendar with a system that works for you.
Doing a weekly check in to update your week's events before they happen was mentioned earlier, and is a great idea, but there are plenty of other things that need updates too.
For example, going back to my shopping list I mentioned earlier, as soon as I realize I'm low on something, or have run out, I make myself stop whatever I'm doing, and add it to my list.
If I don't, I'll forget. Then I'll be at the grocery store, racking my brain, wondering what that random ingredient was.
I'll inevitably end up buying the wrong thing, and the whole point of having a list will have been wasted.
Make a promise to yourself that anytime something crosses your mind that you will want to remember later, you write it down in the appropriate list, or put it right into your calendar.
Keep your new, great lists up-to-date so you don't miss any important due dates, and so you have piece of mind with a more organized life.
As you go through your lists, make sure you take the time to cross stuff off, maybe even doing a few defiant sharpie strikes through, whatever works for you.
But at the end of a hard day's work you deserve to look back at everything you've done and feel good about yourself.
Taking a moment to appreciate all that you completed can REALLY help you end the day on a high note, and feel less panicky over all the stuff you didn't!
And while it's easy to always focus on the next chore, that's just not healthy. Give yourself a little pat on the back for everything you DID get done girlfriend! Take time to celebrate your wins!
But what if your Daily Dos are not getting done!?
It's important to note that if your tasks STILL aren't getting completed, maybe you're expecting too much of yourself.
Instead of feeling proud and congratulating yourself at the end of the day, you're bummed out.
Revisit Step 4 - Delegating and Step 6 - Do Your Tasks.
And, we'll let you in on a little secret... You can always push the extra, less important stuff to tomorrow. It won't be the end of the world!
Help Your Fellow Girls Out!
Do you write a daily or weekly to-do list, or do you have another way to make sure everything gets done?
Let us know below.
If you've found something that works for you, please share it with the ladies here so we can help each other live a sweeter life!
Similarly, if you've implemented any of these tips, and found them to be helpful, please tell us about it.
Also, don't forget to Pin this so you can reference it later.
Thanks for visiting girlfriend! I’ll see you back again soon.