How To Create (outstanding) To-do Lists

Details are the way to greatness when it comes to simple things. So here are some golden tips to up your to-do-listing game.

How To Create (outstanding) To-do Lists

This post is part of our ✨7 Productivity Tips as 🎆 EOY 🍾Gifts ✨ Series.

Check our previous post about Single-Tasking and stay tuned for the next ones!

1: 🎊 Single-Tasking | 2:  🎊 To-Do Lists  | 3: 🎁 | 4: 🎁 | 5: 🎁 | 6: 🎁 | 7: 🎁

(A special thank you to Ziyun Tie, our outstanding UX researcher, who helped with many of the "Pro tips" in this post!)

Everyone knows the concept of to-do lists: we list the things we need to accomplish - or do. Pretty self-explanatory. And we all know the satisfaction of checking things off our list once we've completed them.

Whether you prefer digital or paper, having an organized to-do list is essential. And, as it often happens, details are the way to greatness when it comes to simple things. So here are some golden tips to up your to-do-listing game.

1. Choose your materials for your convenience: respect your workflow comfort.

Maybe you're a pen-and-paper person, or you may feel great with your tablet or have a favorite notes app. Whatever it is, make sure you choose the format you like the most - not just the one "everyone seems to be talking about ." The reason is: you go back to your to-do list many times a day, and if it's on a device you hate to deal with or an app you can't get accustomed to, you'll hate that part of your day.

Suppose you keep your to-do in your non-favorite place. In that case, chances are you'll avoid doing proper accountability of tasks and will move to your preferred method anyway, but in an unorganized way (e.g., post-its all over the place when they could've been conveniently aligned on the wall beside your desk since the beginning).

Being productive is already hard enough, don't make it worse by forcing a change in your workflow because of trends.

2. Know your long, medium, and short-term goals.

Before starting your to-do list, establish what's most important to you and ensure that your tasks align with those goals. It's good to know what you're trying to accomplish in the long run, especially if you're organizing work-related tasks. Being familiar with your medium and long-term goals (e.g., double your sales by the end of the quarter) will help you to prioritize later. So, first, make sure you know your team's main objectives, and based on that, distribute your tasks in a timeframe.

Personally, after I'm familiar with the collective plans and strategies, I like to use these three different buckets to put things that pop into my mind:

  • Big To-Do - for important things I want to do eventually but don't have to happen now or I don't have the right resources for them yet;
  • Weekly To-Do - what I want to accomplish that week;
  • Daily To-Do

3. Brainstorm everything.

After you set your goal, brainstorm the tasks you want to accomplish. It's time to get it all out without worrying about connections or priorities. This helps you get creative and focus on what you want to achieve.

Pro-tip: Dump all the things you need to do on one list - anything that comes to mind: work, school, chores, socials, etc. This step is important to make the download from your brain to the list. Besides, you're only one person with the same amount of hours in your day for all those things, so it makes sense to look at them together.

4. Break Down.

Make sure you also break down your larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones that can be tackled more easily.

5. Prioritize.

Once you have your tasks listed and outlined your short, medium, and long-term plans, it's time to prioritize.

You will focus your energy on the tasks that will bring you closer to your most important goals with a tighter deadline, so you can use your time more efficiently. But you don't want to spend all of your time on urgent matters only. You should save around 10-20% of your weekly time for things in your Big To-Do, so you can get the innovative and fun stuff going.

Pro-tip: don't go crazy with daily to-do lists. Pick out the three most important things you NEED to get done by EOD. It can be a work deadline or something you promised to other people.

6. Block time for your tasks.

You'll only find time if you make time. After you decide on your tasks for the week and the day, I strongly suggest you block the periods when you'll be working on them in your calendar. If you save some long chunks of uninterrupted, focused work, even better (spoiler alert: we'll talk about this in future posts).

If you don't protect your calendar, no one will. And those tasks won't get to check! Heaven.

Pro-tip: the more you do it, the more you'll learn how long a specific task takes to be completed, and you'll be able to block just the right amount of time. Also, make sure to have 15 minutes pauses between those big tasks to give your brain a break and take care of some of those quick but still important things on your list.

7. If it's easy and you have time, do it.

At the end of the day, when you have time left, peruse your to-do list looking for items that can be knocked out during those minutes (or hours, if you're very efficient and focused - good for you!). Maybe a task took shorter than you expected, or perhaps you want to work late - the point is: if your mind and body are feeling it, you go and cross your tasks.

8. Color-code away!

Many people find it helpful to color-code tasks. You can use different colors depending on the difficulty or type of the task, or if you manage more than one team, which one of them a task is related to. Whatever the case, color is an interesting resource to translate your to-do list trends in one glance, which can save you time and help you to diagnose how your day is looking.

If you have a great to-do list tip that's not here, share it in the comments!

And if you start realizing your to-do lists are filled with small, boring tasks, and you wish a digital AI assistant could take over and help you out, maybe you should try Augment AI.

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