Do you suffer from an inefficient to-do list? Most people do! But you can do against it with these easy tricks. You will never have problems again if you apply these tips regularly.
The base problem
It comes from the human nature that we like to collect a lot of things. Gadgets, books and even to-do list items. We write down more and more things to do, and it gets crowded soon.
You will feel guilty if you keep a lot of tasks on your list and you will not follow the deadlines. In worse cases, you will even stop using your to-do list. That’s why you have to keep it clean and easily understandable.
More tasks ≠ Better results
Doing more assignments doesn’t mean you will be more productive and it doesn’t automatically mean that you will get better results too.
Less but better-described tasks are more effective and will bring you better results. You should know that 80% of our tasks won’t bring us closer to our dreams (This is known as Pareto rule).
Also, if you have fewer tasks on your list, you can focus better on those few things. It’s that simple.
So it’s clear that you have to clean up your existing to-do lists and always apply the following technique to your new lists.
Best To-do cleaning technique
You can use the following method in two cases:
- If you have an existing to-do list and you want to clean it up.
- You’re always getting new and new tasks, and you feel it has grown on your head.
Steps of the technique:
- Create a new list called “Disturbing list” in your preferred software or if you prefer the analog way, take an empty white paper.
- Then add all of the tasks here which are not so important.
- And now comes the best: forget about this list.
Why is it good? Because you will clean up your existing list from the bunch of not important tasks you had.
Pareto’s rule (mentioned above) can also be applied here. 80% of these small and unimportant, disturbing tasks will never come back. So after a few weeks or months, you can delete it from your Disturbing list without any consequences. The other 20% will reappear later, and you can add it to your main list then. They can go back to your main list if someone asks “Have you completed […] task?”. Answer them you have forgotten it, and you will complete it soon.
You should apply this technique regularly, repeatedly every few weeks. It will help you maintain the cleanliness of your to-do lists.
Note that you can check your Disturbing list when you’re bored and you can also do some from it every few weeks.
Keeping only well-explained tasks
Your to-do list should be easy to follow and implement. That’s why you should only keep clearly explained assignments on your list. For example, you should delete tasks like “Email John” or expand it with more detailed information.
Your brain can trick you, and you won’t remember things which seems clear right now. Probably you have already experienced this. You have written down something, and you thought you would remember the purpose of it from 1 or 2 words. The truth is, you will forget them. That’s why you need to be precisely clear when defining to-do items.
You should also drop too large tasks to the trash and break them down to smaller pieces.
Complimentary paper-based to-do lists
From my experiences keeping my to-do list on online services is a great thing because I can take a look at it everywhere. On the computer, on my smartphone – so basically anywhere. However, when I am planning my next week, I always use a small post-it paper. I write down my tasks for every day for the next week on separate post-its. It’s better than a digital list because you can always see it. I usually place it next to my keyboard, so I see it all the time. When I complete a task, I tick them on the paper (and do the same on my main, digital list). It helps in visualizing my progress.
Power of deadlines
You should always add deadlines to your tasks. It should urge you to finish the tasks. I will write a complete post soon about this topic because I find it so important.
It’s important to reward yourself after completing a more significant task because if you’re continually working, you will burn out soon. So for example, if you have achieved some bigger tasks, you can reward yourself with your favorite food or go to the cinema. It depends on you. The reward shouldn’t be a huge thing. The secret is in the small things.
Software recommendation: Trello
I use Trello for my tasks, and we are also keeping track of our jobs with my Virtual Assistant.
Trello is an excellent tool for visualizing your tasks and also great for collaborating tasks with comments, due dates, separate lists (like Not started, In progress or Completed).
I urge you to check their website and the features.
Cleaning your to-do list is almost as important as having one. If you spend some time with cleaning up the mess in your to-do list, you will feel relief, and when you start your work tomorrow, you will even thank yourself that you have completed this critical task. However, you have to be consistent and follow the steps above when adding new works to your list and also you should repeat cleaning every few weeks.
If you have questions, feel free to ask me in a comment below.