As I state on the about-page of this blog, I love making to-do lists. It gives me direction and a good sense of priority for the tasks of the day (or week) ahead. Moreover, it gives me the feeling that I am already doing something about those things that need to be done, merely by acknowledging them and awarding them a place on my list :)
Leaving a few to-dos unchecked is not a crime. However, it is something that maybe you could have seen coming when you were creating your list. Today I want to talk about the things you can learn from your own to-do lists. Asking yourself the following questions can give you insight in your own actions.
1. What kind of things go on my list?
First, write down everything you think you need to do today and then have a good look at the list. What category do the things on your list fall into? Are they things you might forget if you don’t write them down (such as groceries)? Or are they things you’ve written down not because you’ll otherwise forget but because you really REALLY need to get them done once and for all?
Of course the list could be a mix of those categories, but it can be insightful to see where they come from because they might predict how much you’ll actually get done today. If you’ve written down more than two of those in the hard category, get rid of the ones that are not as urgent or important. This way, you will have more courage to get the one or two hard ones done.
2. How many things are on the list?
Again this can depend on the type of items on your list. A grocery list can be pretty extensive but if you only need to go to the market down the street, you’ll be done in no time. When you make the list, keep in mind the time you have today and calculate a little time for travel or a change of clothes between activities. You’ll want a to-do list that you can actually get done! It may feel great at the beginning of the day to make a gigantic list of things to be done, but you’ll only disappoint yourself if you don’t have time for most of them.
3. How often has a certain item been on my list in the past?
If you’ve been putting off something, chances are it’s been on your to-do lists of the past a couple of times. You mustered up the courage in the morning to add the item to your list, but as the day went along you found an excuse not to do it. I’ve been there, and still am there often. Asking myself the above question can help me put the chore into perspective: is it really that important to get it done now? And if it is: why have I been putting it off? Finding the answer to that last question is crucial to make sure the item is on today’s list for the final time. Is the task too big to tackle at once? Break it up into smaller pieces and do something every day. Is it totally boring? Promise yourself to work on it for 5 minutes at least, and then see if you feel like finishing it. If you don’t, you’ll at least have made a start and you can still feel good about yourself for tackling part of it!
4. What task should I do first?
This can be a tricky one, depending on the contents of your list. It might be helpful to group some tasks together, because they take place in the same location or because having done one will make doing the other one easier. In general, it’s best to start with the task you’re least looking forward to. When that one’s out of your way, the rest will be peanuts! Grouping tasks can also help getting a couple of things done at once to kick start your list.
Asking yourself these questions when or after making a to-do list can be of great help to create a list that you can finish by the end of the day, and that feels so good! And if you still have room on today’s to-do list, bake the lemon cookies in the picture :)
P.S. How do you like my ta-da list? I got it from these great guys.