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Tips to Make Productive To-Do Lists

Posted by ASHLEY LITTLES
26 April, 2017

to do list

Writing down tasks distills and makes easier to remember the things you need to focus on. The effort you're expending on a list, manipulating and prioritizing tasks, tells your brain it's important.

But did you know you're probably doing to-do lists wrong? A proper to-do list is broken down into tasks you can manage, requiring no more than two hours each. Are you doing it this way? If not, you may be losing much of the benefit. 

Your daily tasks also need to be keyed to your overall goals (so you have a chance of acheiving them).

Why To-Do Lists Help Improve Your Productivity

Writing down tasks turns abstract aims in your head into actual work you intend to complete. Breaking big efforts down into the necessary, elementary steps helps prepare you for the work ahead. Listing your tasks forces you, ultimately, to clear space in your calendar to tackle what's on your list, helping you cut through the rest of the noise that fills your workday.

How You've Been Doing To-Do Lists Wrong

A to-do list should not be just about reminding you of things you need to work on. What you need to be doing instead is breaking things down so you can use your to-do lists productively to help you achieve your long-term goals.

The Best Way to Put To-Do Lists to Work for You

By putting to work some other types of lists you will not only help clean up your to-do list, you will also force youself to start thinking longer term and put yourself in control of your day (rather than the other way around).

Work in these other list types in your effort to enhance productivity and efficiency at work:

  • The Master Goals List identifies what you want to accomplish long-term, say in three to six months; it lists the "what" and "when" of your aims.
  • The Weekly Project List breaks down items on your Master Goals List, helping you see how to arranging your daily schedules.

Employing these other two lists, your daily to-do lists then breaks down your weekly projects into manageable chunks (an hour or two each). This is where you think through and record the "how" of achieving your goals.

Why It Works

What you are actually doing with this approach is making your daily to-do list take on real meaning in the overall scheme of things, while freeing it of long-term projects. Each time you cross an item off your daily list, you're taking real steps toward achieving your long-term goals.

Now your daily to-do list becomes the real driver of your productivity as guided by your bigger aims.

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