The Magic of To-Do List

It’s 6:00 am, and you’ve just woken up. After showering, it’s time to eat breakfast, catch the morning news, and then start your work. You are feeling relaxed and happy. You have very high expectations for the day, and you want to be as productive with your to-do list as possible.

Fast forward to 2 pm the same day. You are working in a rush, and you barely had a chance to take a lunch break. You start to feel a bit stressed and tired because of the busy schedule. Besides, it seems that you have to go back to certain tasks and fix them because you didn’t have time to focus on them properly. You wish you’d find a reset button so that you could start your day from all over with a different strategy.

What you probably experienced was this: you planned your day the night before, and you felt you were on top of your tasks. However, things started to go wrong when you kept adding tasks to your list, and finally, your task list was many miles long. Your to-do list also contained tasks that were pretty much impossible to get done in one day.

The other point which contributed to your hectic and stressful day was not understanding how much time completing a particular task would take and when to execute the task. If you had this information, it would have been easier to figure out the right timing for executing the task.

Finally, there wasn’t any flexibility in your plans. You forgot to add a buffer between tasks and understand that certain tasks are much larger than what they seem outside.

The lack of time spent on planning will also be shown as too many big tasks stuffed into your daily list. If you haven’t broken down the tasks into smaller pieces, probably, you are not going to get them done during the day. This, in turn, makes you beat yourself up for not completing your task list.

Finally, don’t treat creating a task list like some secondary thing that you try to do as quickly as possible. When you pay more attention to your next day’s task list, the more likely the list is going to be realistic and less stressful for you.

How to create an achievable To-Do List

To make a list that you can accomplish in a day, do the following:

  1. Eliminate Unnecessary tasks: Go through your commitments and decide if you need each one. This has eliminated the tasks related to that commitment.
  2. Take Your time to plan the List: Don’t rush creating your task list, spend some time on the planning phase. If required, isolate yourself for the planning part by going to a separate room in your home (or even going outside). This way, you can think the tasks through before you put them on your to-do list.
  3. Move Important tasks to the Beginning: When planning your day, make sure that the important tasks are at the beginning of your list. This ensures that you get those tasks done as quickly as possible.
  4. Track the recurring Tasks: You might have recurring tasks on your list, but do you know how much time they take to accomplish? If you don’t, make sure you do some time tracking to figure it out. This helps you to plan your day better, as you know how much time a task takes and if there is a certain time slot in your schedule when the task could be executed.
  5. Batch similar tasks: Look at your list, and find out if there are similar tasks that you can batch-process. This way, you can get certain tasks off your list faster and easier.
  6. Define the Tasks in More Detail: Don’t just include a task like “build a website” on your list; make sure you have broken the task into smaller pieces. The smaller the tasks are, the easier it is to accomplish them before the due date.
  7. Upgrade your to-do list maker: Naturally, you could use a pen and paper approach to your to-do list, but try to take advantage of technology, too. Try to find a tool that takes care of the maintenance of your task list for you.  

However, if you still have a hard time achieving your daily tasks on your to-do list, make sure that you analyze the reasons why this happened. If anything, do not beat yourself up for not finishing your task list. No one is perfect, and we can learn from our mistakes. It takes a bit of practice to create a great task list. However, once you learn to put all the pieces together, things are going to look much better, and you’ll be more productive overall.

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