To-do lists are essential to getting things done. Lots of people ask me how I juggle so many projects, businesses, and ideas at one time. The answer: I’m a to-do list power user.
I want you to get better at completing tasks, managing multiple projects, and enjoying the feeling of accomplishment on a daily basis!
I think I’ve tried every to-do list app in existence, and I always come back to physically writing out my to-do lists. Here’s why:
Creating to-do lists online leads to going other places online
When I used slick to-do list apps, I always found myself getting distracted and ending up on a social media site or reading some random article. Unless you create and update to-do lists with all other programs closed and WiFi turned off, you will get distracted. It’s a fact of life.
Scratching off completed to-do list items is empowering
There’s just something about physically drawing a thick line through a completed item on a to-do list. You can feel the accomplishment. You get to physically enjoy checking an item off your list. It’s just not the same when you highlight an item on a screen and hit the delete key (or format the text to strikethrough).
Rewrite your to-do lists daily
One thing that really helps me tear through my daily to-do lists is to rewrite them each day. That means I have to go back to the previous day’s list and rewrite all the to-dos I have not finished yet. It creates a built-in accountability mechanism to just get things done so you don’t have to keep rewriting them over and over again. When you type out your to-do lists you can copy and paste (that’s easy and effortless). But actually rewriting a list of things from the previous day is cumbersome and annoying. It keeps you very in tune with your progress.
Break to-do items into smaller tasks
This is one of the biggest problems with to-do lists: We don’t write specific small tasks, we write big picture items. If you want to get the website up for your next business or project you do not want to put “get website up” on your to-do list. That’s too big of an item. Instead, you need to boil it down into the smallest steps possible. Here’s an example:
- Finish the website wireframes for the designer
- Get the designer to deliver first crack at designs
- Make tweaks on design and get final files
- Talk to my developer about hosting the website (where is it going? cost?)
- Give final design files (when ready) to the developer
- Have the developer code the site
- Buy the domain
- Get the email capture stuff working (sign up for MailChimp, give developer access)
- Write the meta data for the title, keywords, and description
- Write the homepage copy
- Write the about page copy
- Get my headshot ready
- What links do I want in the navigation? What about in the footer?
- Get photos from Unsplash for contact us page
- Show the website to a friend for typos and feedback
- Launch the website!
That’s 16 individual tasks and there are probably 16 more that would be added in the process. But when each one is something simple and achievable. You can get it done and move onto the next one. Plus, this helps you avoid mistakes and forgotten steps.
Create multiple types of to-do lists
Besides breaking to-do list items into smaller tasks, I also like having multiple to-do lists. I use Post-It notes, a journal, and a piece of paper taped to my wall. I like to think of these of daily to-dos, weekly to-dos, and monthly to-dos (respectively). The daily to-dos on Post-It notes are tasks I need to get done immediately, and once they’re finished I can crumple them up and throw away (another empowering feeling — even better than crossing off). The weekly to-dos in my journal keep me on schedule for whatever project(s) I’m working on, and give me a place to look back on how much I have (or have not) accomplished. The monthly to-do sheet that I tape to the wall in front of my desk is a constant reminder of everything I’m working on. This may seem like a lot of work for to-do lists, but it’s really only 5–10 minutes per day and well worth it.
Find what works best for you
These are simply my thoughts based on my experiences with to-do lists. To-do lists are my secret weapon to being able to launch a lot of projects. And I want you to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment too!