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How to Create a Better To-Do List

Create a better to-do list by doing it the day before.

By
Stever Robbins,
Episode #144

How to Prioritize Your To-Do List

Ask yourself, “If I only got this far through my list, am I okay with everything after this item not getting done until the next day?” If the answer is “no,” shuffle the more important items toward the front of your list.

Most of us are way too optimistic about what we can accomplish in a single day. We think we can get our wardrobe redesigned, install a new hot tub, recruit a dozen zombies, and make chocolate bon-bons, all between the hours of nine and five. Nonsense. Even Bernice’s homemade caffeine-free herbal-enhanced turbocharger biscuits won’t make that possible.

Give your items priorities. People treat priorities like they're this Big Thing. They're not. Priorities are just your best guess as to the best order to do things in. Put important emergencies first. If a hole to the fourth dimension opened up inside your office and monsters are trying to come through to suck out your eyeballs, by all means, move that to the front of the list.

What comes next depends on your deadlines, your shifting work priorities, your mood, and the secret instructions given to you by Natasha, the mysterious Russian woman whom you encountered in the vegetable aisle of your local supermarket.

Double-check your priorities by reviewing your list in priority order. After each item, ask, “If I only got this far through my list, am I okay with everything after this item not getting done until the next day?” If the answer is “no,” shuffle the more important items toward the front of your list.

If you’re like me, no amount of experience will ever get you to limit your to-do list to a realistic amount of work. So accept that, and just make sure that you do the stuff you really have to do.

Use Your To-do List as a Touchstone

Tomorrow morning, get up and do the super-special item on your list. Only then should you check your email and voicemail to find out if anything urgent came in. Then spend the rest of your day with your to-do list somewhere in sight. I keep mine by my keyboard, so every time I glance down, I see it. When you see your list, double check that you’re working on something that’s somewhere on the list. If not, bring yourself back to the list.

One final tweak: if something comes up and you decide to work on it even though it’s not on your list, add it to your list. Then cross it off when you’re done. By reviewing your list at the end of the day, you’ll be able to see which interruptions or unexpected items ended up taking priority over your daily items. If you notice a pattern over time that certain interruptions consistently disrupt you, those can become candidates for working into your to-do list before they become interruptions.

Now I’m off to help Bernice again. Apparently she’s mastered fonts and is now working on tab stops. I may as well start adding this to my to-do list on an ongoing basis. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long month.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

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Woman with List image courtesy of Shutterstock

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