The to-do list is a necessary but dreaded part of everyone’s day. A list of responsibilities and obligations can be overwhelming and we sometimes don’t even know where to begin. Done wrong, the to-do list can do more harm than good.
But when organized in the right way, it can help us be more productive with our day without feeling overwhelmed. We could get projects done faster and have more time to spend on doing things we enjoy instead of worrying about what we have to do.
There’s a simple formula for finding out which tasks are the most pressing: Importance X Urgency = Priority
Importance is calculated on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being the most important and 3 being the least. An important task would be one that brings you closer to your goals or is necessary for your job, health, or the health of those under your care.
Urgency is also calculated on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being the most urgent and 3 being the least. Something due tomorrow would be a 1, and something due in a month would be a 3.
When you list all the things you have to do, also calculate their importance and urgency and use the formula to figure out the measure of their priority. The lower the number, the higher the priority. List the tasks in order of their priority and they won’t seem as daunting.
2. Pay attention to time.
We can sometimes overestimate how much time we need to complete a task. So, for a week or two, time yourself when you do tasks and see how long it really takes to do them, then write down this information. I thought washing dishes took an hour, but it only took twenty minutes. With that in mind, doing the dishes seemed a lot less daunting.
When you write up your to-do list, also write down how long it might take to do the task. If you’re not sure of the exact length of time, you can approximate or write “more time” or “less time.”
3. Break Projects into Smaller Steps.
Large projects can seem especially daunting. The due date could be months away but the size of the project makes it hard to figure out where to start or where to go next. This is why it’s important to break the project into smaller steps and give each step a due date. What do you need to do by next week to bring the project closer to completion? What about the week after that? And the week after that? Write these down and stick to the due dates.
4. Keep your to-do list in multiple places.
If you’re like me, you’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached. I have my to-do list written in my daily planner, on a file on my computer, and taped to the wall. It’s not foolproof, but this makes it easier to refer to the list whenever I need to without being distracted while searching for it. Just make sure to keep all versions of the to-do list updated.
5. Ask a friend for help.
Having an outside force to keep you accountable could help you complete tasks in a timelier manner, especially if your goals overlap. Doing chores with someone you enjoy spending time with can lead to great memories and also make it harder to make excuses to put the chores off.
The to-do list is a necessary evil in our current society, but it can become a great tool to help you stay on track and complete your goals. It doesn’t need to inspire dread.