A to-do list can be a great companion for productivity — helping you to plan ahead, making sure that you don’t forget anything, and freeing up your mind to focus on the important stuff.
On the flip side, an excessively long to-do list could kill your motivation before you even get started, limit creativity and spontaneity, or worse, make you feel like you’re being productive because you’re crossing items off when in truth none of those tasks are actually moving you closer to your long term goals.
To make the most of your to-do list and keep overwhelm at bay, consider following these simple steps below the next time you create one.
Keep it short and sweet.
Your to-do list is essentially the roadmap around which you’ll plan your day. It can be daunting to wake up to an endless list of tasks, especially if they all seem important.
When creating your lists, make it a rule to limit them to only a given number of tasks, say five or six per day. This will ensure that you distill your lists down to only those tasks that you feel are most important. Ask yourself if everything on your list is moving you in the direction that you want to take your life, and then fully commit to that.
Taking it further, you can challenge yourself to work on your listed items in their order of importance. Start your day with the most important task at hand, and only move to the next when you’re done with that, ensuring that you’re not only making progress but doing it in the right direction.
Re-examine those tasks that you skip more than twice.
Don’t beat yourself up if you notice that you’ve failed to check a particular item off your to-do list more than once. Rather, ask yourself why you haven’t been able to attend to it.
Maybe your priorities have changed and it’s no longer as important as you had imagined, or maybe you need to get a little outside help to make it work.
The point of re-evaluation is to check in with yourself and make sure you’re not merely doing things because you think you should, or overwhelming yourself with tasks that are beyond your level of expertise or ability.
Include something you actually want to do.
Nothing moves us forward like the anticipation for a little reward!
Including activities that you love will give you that much-needed light at the end of your to-do list tunnel and keep you motivated to soldier through the difficult tasks.
It serves us well to remember that the daily grind can become stressful and detrimental to our health if we are not deliberate about creating a time to rest and recharge.
Including some down time on your list is just as important as crossing all the items off, so make sure you’re being proactive and preventing burnout before it creeps in and halts your progress altogether.
Leave some space for emergencies.
Life is unpredictable and the best way to retain control is to allow for the unexpected. I always suggest for you to allocate buffer time in between events, meetings, and appointments.
It is prudent to plan for uncertainty because this flexibility will give you the leeway to attend to urgent issues that crop up without derailing your long term plans.
Furthermore, it will allow you to act on new ideas or opportunities that present themselves to you as you move along.