Create A Fantastic To-do List for Your Life

Rachel Yerks
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It’s difficult to get everything done on your to-do list. I’m not a miracle worker; you won’t finish everything you set out to finish simply because your list-making skills have been made superior by my tips. Instead, my aim is to help you get more done each day.

I’m going to talk you through my strategy, how it works, and why it works. If you have any suggestions for your fellow readers or me to make this to-do list even more exceptional, feel free to let us know in the comments.

Without further ado, here is how I create a “perfect” to-do list every day.

#1. Give yourself multiple productive options
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Laundry goes on my to-do list. If you are the designated laundry person in your household, it should be on your list, too. In fact, laundry should be on the same list as getting your taxes done or writing a new article for your blog. Ordering a new glass because your cat shattered one last week should also be on this list.

Physical activities, mental work, and upcoming purchases should all be on the same list. Although the tasks differ, they all need to get done sometime in the future. Don’t “gatekeep” productivity.

Your to-do list shouldn’t only be made up of difficult tasks that need to be done by Friday. Creating to-do lists like that is a great way to dislike to-do lists for the rest of your life. Give yourself a productive break, like shopping for kitchenware you need. It’s still something you need to get done.

#2. Create tiers of tasks
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As much as I enjoy folding laundry and shopping for new dishes, I’d be lying to myself if I said these tasks were as important as writing a new article or working on my email list's upcoming freebie. Some tasks can wait while others shouldn’t.

Extremely important tasks on my to-do list go in the top tier. These important tasks may be work-related, or they could be commitments I’ve made, such as promising to bake a batch of cookies for a party later in the week. Keep your promises, or don’t make promises, people. The second tier should be all other tasks. I only use two tiers, but you’re welcome to stretch your list to three, or four.

I then set myself a rule depending on the day. If I’m feeling energized when I wake up, I should do a tier-one task. If I really don’t want to do that task, I need to do four tier-two tasks. If a tier-one task is due imminently, I am not allowed to avoid it by doing other tasks.

You need to be honest with yourself here. If you don’t feel four tier-two tasks are enough to replace a tier-one task, do more tier-two tasks, or partially work on a tier-one task to make up the difference. You are in charge of your energy and efforts.

#3. Reward yourself for task progress and completion
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Throughout the day, I’ll want a snack or mid-day shower (I work from home). I won’t let myself have the thing I want at the moment until I make headway on one of my tasks. If it’s an article I’m only just beginning, I need to finish the introduction and pick the next two paragraph headings before I can have my reward. If I’m nearing the end of an article, I need to finish the article before grabbing a reward.

A great way to make headway on a tier-one task you really don’t want to do is to use a timer. If you need to complete a huge task, work on it for an uninterrupted 30–45 minutes. You should not be browsing social media or allowing any distractions into your mind during this time. Once you have completed the work period, take a well-deserved break and reward yourself. Even if you don’t finish that tier-one task today, you are much closer than you were previously.

If you break one task into manageable chunks with enticing rewards, you’ll be on track to finish the task in no time. Bullet points under each tier-one task are a great way to chunk out the work.

Another strategy is to tell yourself you need to do a task before meeting up with friends. If you don’t do the task, you can’t go, and you don’t want to let people down. It requires some discipline to get into the habit of holding yourself accountable when you fail, but it works really well.

After all … sometimes there’s no better motivator than other people’s disappointment.

Final thoughts
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If you have no accountability to yourself and your desires, no to-do list is going to work for you. You need to have the discipline to be productive. If you are finding you can’t get anything done that you want to get done, start very small.

Self-care is important. Make your bed, brush your teeth, and have breakfast. Doing those three tasks is better than staying in bed. Slowly expand your to-do list as your capacity for productivity grows. Give yourself a wide variety of tasks to choose from so you will have at least one interesting or easy task to do from your list. Create tiers of tasks based on difficulty and perceived importance.

Most importantly, reinforce the good behavior of completing tasks. Reward yourself for your efforts and revel in your accomplishments, no matter the size. To-do lists are personal, and one person’s tier two, or tier-four task may very well be someone else’s tier-one task. Don’t “gatekeep” productivity. Focus on your own achievements and potential.

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Owings Mills, MD

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