How to effectively create and manage a to-do list

We all have great ideas about what we are going to do when a new year starts and we make New Year’s resolutions and to-do lists all with good intentions and then life takes over!

I’ve done blogs on positive procrastination, podcasts on don’t beat yourself up, and given lots of tips on why to-do lists often don’t work.

Now don’t get me wrong to-do lists do have their value but only if you understand why you are making your to-do list.

Sometimes you get so focused on the actual list that it stops you from moving forward, or doing anything or even starting on one or two things on the list. Research shows individuals only complete 41% of the tasks on their to-do lists. So you need to know how to use a to-do list correctly and effectively.

You can do this by:

  • having a to-do list that helps you to be effective and productive
  • writing a to-do list that supports your goals and aims
  • understanding that a to-do list is to help you prioritise tasks
  • having specific tasks
  • breaking-down tasks into types/categories
  • including how long a task will take
  • including deadlines
  • adding the task, timeline, deadlines to your calendar

and above all:

  • BE REALISTIC – if you are someone who writes to-do lists, then keep the list SHORT e.g. less than 7 per day – don’t just dump everything you have to do or think you have to do into a to-do list. When your list is too long you just get stressed and frustrated even to the extent that you don’t start or don’t want to start.

For example, write 3 big tasks to do each day and say 2 small tasks of focus on ONE big task and say 3 or 4 small tasks.

The Japanese have a method called Kanban which involves having 3 columns with headings ‘to do’; ‘doing’ and ‘done’. When you move tasks from to-do to done you will feel a sense of satisfaction. You will feel positive and this motivates you to move forward.

In other words, you need to properly manage your to-do list. If you don’t do this you are wasting your time and this results in disappointment, frustration, and becoming stressed and overwhelmed.

As a writer, I am often asked if I prefer using a pen and paper or a computer. The computer can be fast and of course, saves your work. However, when writing creatively I certainly find using a pen (especially my new range of aroma pens such as ‘The Pearl’ which are infused with lavender for calming and relaxing the mind or rosemary for memory and concentration) and paper lets the creative juices flow. However, it is up to you as long as you use the tips above. You could have a notebook, journal, or diary to hand and make notes when you think about creating a to-do list.

Above all don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to get through your to-do list, just check that you are following the positive tips.

Remember to use myABC and make it your good habit – it helps you to keep positive and face the challenges of life

Virtual hugs

Patricia x

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