How to write a to do list that actually works!

Queen bee blog: flatlay

Make your lists work!

We’ve blogged before about the importance of the to-do list in achieving better levels of organisation, but inspired by a recent meeting we had with a new client, we thought we’d look at how you actually create one. Often regarded as a feat in itself, we’ve noted our tips to help make your list manageable and actually deliver results.

  1. Choose your weapon.

    To-do lists come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s all about what works for you. You may prefer good ol’ fashioned pen and paper, in which case we recommend you consider a notebook that houses all your lists, rather than random post it notes dotted all round your house like confetti. For the techy type there are a huge range of digital apps that allow you to list on the move and sync across all your hardware, try Evernote or Trello.

  2. Break them down.

    There’s nothing more overwhelming than pages and pages of to-dos. A master list is great for getting everything down, but then look to break it up into more manageable pieces. You could develop sub-lists such as ‘DIY list’, ‘Party tasks’ or ‘Spring cleaning action plan’. Personally, I like to create a weekly list and then distil them into daily tasks. Each week, I review the master list (Sunday evening best for this) and transfer across the stuff that needs to be tackled across the next seven days.

  3. Keep it simple and stay specific.

    All to-dos should be something you can finish in one-sitting. Don’t set yourself vague goals like ‘get fit’; where do you start with that? When do you consider it finished? Instead, look at the smaller steps needed to get there like ‘start spinning class’ or ‘book PT session’, ones where you’ll see real progress and know exactly how you’re inching towards your ultimate goal.

  4. Be realistic

    There are only so many hours in the day. Don’t try to add too many to-dos against one day otherwise you’ll never feel like you’re getting anywhere, and the to-do list will quickly become relegated to bottom of the admin pile. A good trick is to write your daily list and then halve it, creating ‘must-dos’ and ‘nice-tos’.

  5. Worst first

    Don’t avoid THAT task. The one that seems complicated, boring or scary. You’ll end up skirting round it all day and find it goes undone, yet again. Instead, tackle it head on and take advantage of the euphoric feeling of productivity that results. We promise you’ll fire through everything else that day.

  6. But include some quick wins too

    There’s nothing more satisfying or motivating that crossing stuff off your to-do list, so make sure you include a couple of easy and quick tasks on your daily to-do. It’ll make you feel super-productive at the end of the day.

  7. Schedule list-making time

    One of the hardest parts of the to-do list is actually sitting down to write one! Pick a time in the week to plan ahead and then take time every day to review your daily to-do’s. I think a morning reminder and then an evening pat-on-the-pack works best, but I am a list-obsessive! Point is to make sure you give your list regular attention. Only then will you ensure things don’t get forgotten and feel like you are making progress.

  8. Start fresh.

    Make a new list every day so the same old items don’t cloud your view of the day. It also has the added bonus of reminding you today is a fresh start, so even if yesterday was a bit of an accomplishment wash-out, you don’t need to dwell on it and instead can look forward.

  9. Be flexible.

    Life has a nasty habit of throwing the unexpected at you, so give yourself a break if you’re stuck on a conference call or the printer crashes preventing you from finishing that important paper. Just re-review the week ahead and see what can shift to accommodate.

  10. Delegate

    Identify what is sitting on your list that you can’t do or would be better done by someone else. Why let it sit there goading you each week when outsourcing it could not only produce better results but let you enjoy crossing something off your to-do list without even lifting a finger! Queen Bee are great with to-dos by the way, it’s our speciality ;0).

  11. Give yourself a pat on the back

    It’s so important to recognise what you HAVE done, not what you SHOULD HAVE done. Take two mins daily and ten mins weekly, just to acknowledge this and give you the motivation you need to continue. And at the end of each month, try this trick; review some of the larger goals you set yourself and acknowledge how far you’ve come. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.

If, despite these tips, you’re still struggling to bring some sense of control, never mind order, then do get in touch. We have worked with several clients to address their process and priorities. Sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes to see the woods for the trees.