Creating an effective to-do list is the foundation of any productivity plan. Many entrepreneurs, however, struggle with this seemingly basic exercise. While you may think you have all your tasks sorted out in your head, even the people with the best memories will have a hard time keeping track of everything they have to do without writing it down.
I’m a huge fan to making to-do lists. It’s just a simple way to get your brain organized. The less you have to remember, the better. You’ll also be able to focus on bigger-picture items, rather than that email you have to respond to.
Here are a few easy steps to making an effective to-do list:
1) Write It All Down
Whether you actually write it down on a piece of paper or type it up in a spreadsheet is up to you. However, get your to-do list started. Write down everything you have to do. To be even more organized, you can also have multiple lists- one for work and one for personal. Keep in mind that items on your to-do list should focus on the short term and be realistic and attainable. For instance, mowing the lawn belongs on your to-do list. Paying off your mortgage does not.
Once you have everything written down, prioritize them. Think about when your deadlines are for each one and get started on those that are most important.
3) Set Goals
After you’ve prioritized your list, make a plan. Set some goals – how many tasks do are you aiming to accomplish today? How much time will you set aside for each task? Setting a goal will also help you evaluate how successful you are and whether or not you’re using your time effectively.
At the end of each day, go back to your to-do list and re-evaluate it. As our lives are constantly changing every day, something that wasn’t so important yesterday may be more urgent today. Tasks on your to-do list need to be re-prioritized constantly. Also, take a look at your list as a whole after each day – are you making any progress? If not, your goals may not be realistic. Try breaking them down into smaller tasks.
5) Stick To It
Your to-do list should be a living, breathing document. In order for it to function and be effective, you need to update it constantly. It’s easy to start a to-do list but the hard part is sticking to it. Check things off as you finish them. Add new tasks consistently. If you put a conscious effort into maintaining your list, you’ll find that it’ll become second nature to use it.
While to-do lists may be seem like a nuisance, it is actually a very effective tool. Keeping at least one to-list will keep your more organized and your day that much easier. It’s also a great feeling once you can cross off something on your list.