Exceptional To-Do Lists
Read Time: 4 minutes, 50 seconds
Let me guess. You have to-do lists. You use them every day. They are scattered pieces of paper torn from an old notebook. Maybe they’re brightly, colored Post-its stuck to every foreseeable inch of surface space. Or you think you’re more creative and efficient by using a board plastered to your refrigerator that’s color-coded and labeled by person’s names. Most people that make to-do lists truly believe they are utilizing the tool properly, which is why they become so frustrated and discouraged with time management.
Well, another great reason why you’re a SMaRT Club member, because we are going to teach you how to level up your skills and create to-do lists that actually work.
To-Do Lists are an essential part of effective, organized time and have several benefits in your all-around time organization. First, it consolidates all your duties, tasks, events, and activities into one physical list. By doing this it’s easier to analyze all you have going on than if they are spread across multiple calendars, family members, departments, or even trying to keep it all track in your head.
Second, to-do lists reduce stress by giving the sense of control. When you have papers strewn about a desk and Post-its littered horizontally AND vertically throughout your office/home, the brain sees your environment as chaotic, then triggering your stress response.
Third, until you have your to-do lists you can’t prioritize or determine what would make the greater impact completing. Unless you use the to-do lists as a steppingstone to your strategic plan it’s impossible to
Finally, by writing everything down on paper (this is best for to-do lists, more on this later) you create ‘white space’ in your brain. White spaces are strategic pauses in your thinking that creates calm and balance. By creating white space, you also slow the production and flow of stress hormones, ultimately reducing stress levels.
How to Use To-Do Lists Well
Starting your list is easy and you want it to be purposeful. Get yourself a notebook that you can close and store away. One way to-do lists stress you out is by leaving it front and center, acting as a constant reminder that there are things waiting to be done. Relaxing is difficult when you feel those tasks nipping at your heels, so get it out and put it away at the same time every day. With your notebook make a list of all the things that need to be done. Here’s how you define ‘need to be done’:
- Current tasks that need to be completed. No previous tasks so you can cross them off- that’s for your Done-List.
- Small tasks (max 1 or 2 steps) that can be complete within 50-minutes (50/10 Rule). If the tasks require more than 2 steps, break it down into smaller tasks.
- Actionable (clearly defined start and finish) items that you control and complete yourself.
- You must be 100% committed to completing each task- this isn’t your wish list!
- Keep one for work and one for home. These two shall not intertwine.
Once you have all your tasks listed you want to analyze what you’ve listed to make sure they follow the above criteria. If they do, it’s time to get what you listed arranged properly.
CAUTION: As much as we support you in leveraging to-do lists, be careful you don’t live and die by them. To-do lists are a living document that needs to be flexible and changing often. You can trigger your stress response by being too rigid with what’s on your list.
Most people that make to-do lists truly believe they are utilizing the tool properly, which is why they become so frustrated and discouraged with time management. To-Do Lists are an essential part of effective, organized time and have several benefits in your all-around time organization. Using to-do lists properly is more important than using them in general.