Creating An Effective To-Do List: Warrior Mind Podcast #362

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Over four years and going strong!  With over 500,000 downloads from over 9 countries and 5 continents’…. to-do listthis is the Warrior Mind Podcast.

In this episode of the Warrior Mind Podcast I going to go over how to create an effective to-do list.

Let’s begin with two definitions:

  • Effective – Doing the right things
  • Efficient – Doing those things right

People have been using to-do lists for at least a century now and likely much longer than that. They’re a productivity aid which most of us use to help keep on top of our work assignments or household chores from time to time.

However, some people make much better use of their to-do lists than do others. If you’d like to make the most of your to-do lists to become more efficient and more productive, the following advice may be able to help you do just that.

Why Make To-Do Lists?

There are a few important reasons that to-do lists can be effective

  • We often worry that we’ve left a task undone, especially if it’s an important step in a larger process.
  • We tend to like to be able to run down a list of tasks and get them done one by one.

You might think that the idea of putting together a list of things that need to be done could cause anxiety, but the reverse is actually the case – having a list helps to make sense of a large workload and can reduce the stress of a busy day.

When you write a to-do list, you don’t have to worry about missing anything. Instead, you can prioritize the tasks that need to be done and then get started checking them off of your list.

Some to-do lists aren’t effective. They may simply be too long or include too much to get done all at once and this can lead to further worry.

However, there are some ways to make your to-do lists ones which reduce, rather than cause, anxiety and make it easier to accomplish more.

Enjoy this podcast on creating an effective to-do list

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These are:

  1. Keep multiple lists:

If you’re someone who absolutely needs everything in writing, you may want to keep two or more lists:

  • A list of longer-term projects which you can work on at your own pace;
  • A list of tasks which need to be completed in the short term (for instance, this week or today). This list should be kept to a manageable length.

The first is a list of things that need to be done, but that do not have a definitely deadline. Like any to-do list, it’s best if it’s less than one page, so try to keep it short.

The second to-do list helps you to focus your energy on the highest priorities, so you can get them done as soon as possible.

At some point, the items from your longer-term list should make it to your short-term list; if they don’t seem to be important enough to make the cut after a while, you may want to eliminate them from your to-do list altogether.

  1. Keep your lists manageable

It is often suggested that your daily to-do list should be no longer than 5 items. Somewhere between three and five is probably a good target, since this gives you a number of tasks which you’ll probably be able to get done in one day more often than not.

Other people say that you should try to get just one thing done from your list, then consider anything else you accomplish extra credit. At the same time, you can also add to your list if you can make it through everything you have written down for the day. In any case, make sure not to bite off more than you can chew with your to-do lists.

Giving yourself too much to get done in one day can make you feel anxious and lead you get less done than you would otherwise. Overall, it’s better to make your lists short and give yourself a pat on the back for finishing every item on your list for the day.

  1. Break tasks down into smaller, easier pieces

It can be frustrating to work and work on a single complex task and spend most of the day before checking anything off of your list. These are also the kinds of tasks where we’re more prone to procrastination. It’s easier to break down one larger task into smaller items which you can check off as you go and give yourself a sense of accomplishment which keeps you motivated.

For instance, instead of “clean the garage,” break this task down into smaller pieces, such as “move camping gear to the attic” and “sweep the garage, “etc. These smaller tasks are easier to get done and as a result, you’ll be much more likely to keep moving down your list and get everything done.

  1. Update your list regularly

Keeping your list updated by planning ahead for what needs to be done the following day or the following week is critical. Write up your list and look it over ahead of time, moving items from your short-term to long-term list and vice versa as your priorities and schedule dictate. This ensures that nothing on your to-do list will end up falling through the cracks.

It only takes a few minutes per day to look over your list and add or subtract tasks as needed, so make time for it. You can also remove items from your list entirely if you decide that they are no longer priorities – and we all feel better with a shorter to-do list!

Your list works for you, not the other way around

Your to-do lists are a tool to help you be more productive – they shouldn’t run your life. Keep this in mind and you should find them to be very productive. Everyone has a slightly different system which works best for them, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what kind of to-do list gives you the best results.

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