When it comes to organization and productivity, to-do lists are the ultimate tool.
At a time when we seem to be busier than ever, staying organized can become a challenge. But that's only if you don't have the right tools.
The point of a to-do list is to make life clearer, not further complicate it, so try a few options to see which method of list-making helps you stay organized.
No matter how you divide your list, make sure that you keep it manageable. There’s a limit to how much you can do in 24 hours. Besides, you can be certain that you’ll have to deal with unplanned interruptions of various sizes on any given day.
You can use one of these 5 lists and be confident that your unconscious will shut up and let you get some work done.
1. The Weekly Priority List
Every Sunday, take 10-15 minutes to map out your priorities for the upcoming week. This list doesn’t have to be things that you can strike off your list. For example, you can have items like “catch up on academic things” and “recommit to training” on weekly priority lists. These items are then often best split up into smaller tasks on your daily task list.
The purpose of the weekly list is to get those really big items out of your unconscious and onto paper. Write them down at the beginning of the week. You can then stop worrying about them because your unconscious will know that you have a plan for getting them done. At least it can be sure that you won’t forget about them because they’re written down.
Keep the weekly priority list short and simple—three to five items should do. Remember to stick to over-arching goals and guidelines for the week, not tasks to complete. Scan this list every morning and use it to inform your daily to-do list.
2. The Segmented To-Do List
Making a single to-do list for the day will help keep everything in order.
How you segment your to-do list is up to you. One option is to list three high-priority tasks, three mid-priority tasks, and some low-priority ones.
You could also segment them by context and keep a list of “Home” tasks, “Work” tasks, and “Fitness” tasks, for example. At work, you could use “Meetings,” “Calls,” and “Projects.”
3. The Done List
The “Done List” has been gathering momentum lately as a useful tool in productivity. If you’re not familiar with the done list, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a list of the things that you’ve accomplished during the day.
What’s the point of this, you ask? Stress management. Having too many things to do and not getting enough done are both stressors in their own way. That’s why it helps to know how much you have managed to do in a day and also, what needs to go on or stay off your to-do list in future.
For example, let’s say your high-priority items for the day are “plan a quarterly meeting,” “write weekly report,” and “clean garage.”
If you check those off, sure, you have a record of completing three things. But if you write down that you also answered two calls about the marketing budget, made a list of potential candidates for a hiring, sent six emails about project approval, and picked up a few groceries on the way home, you’ll see just how much you got done.
4. The EA Way To Get Shit Done
Yes, we have our own method here at Excelerate America that our team uses. It's a simple structure to rank and attack each day consistently, and in the right way.
It starts with the dump where you write down all the tasks and to-dos you can think of for the day. You bucket tasks as business or personal to help visually organize everything that needs to get done.
Next, you pick your top three priorities to slay for the day, along with deciding how long each task will take. Then you set a buzzer to give yourself a deadline and allow you to be done for the day.
The most important part of the EA Way To Get Shit Done is to review what went well that day and reflect on what you can improve on tomorrow.
5. Task Management Apps
Finally, we reach the inevitable "there's an app for that" method of organizing to-do lists. There are a ton of really well-made apps out there designed to help you stay on top of your to-dos.
Whether you’re visual, list-oriented, calendar-heavy, sound-induced, or any combination thereof, rest assured there’s an app out there to help you.
A solid choice looks-wise and a task-list app veteran, Todoist touts itself as super user friendly. It’s got a great system allowing you to create sub-tasks, assign due dates, and color code tasks based on priority.
It also integrates with a variety of popular third party apps like Gmail, IFTTT, and more.
Of course, not every method is perfect for everyone, and whichever one makes you most productive might not look exactly like one of these to-do lists. These methods can be combined and used in tandem with each other or maybe there's just a singular method that works best for you.
Emily LaDrig is the Chief Execution Officer at Excelerate America, the fun, smart services for businesses looking to level up. Is there a really cool, unknown to-do list organization method out there that she needs to know about. Let Emily know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.