6 To-Do List Do’s

Like many people, I have never learned (how) to make use of to-do lists. Perhaps it’s because the system is broken, but I never learned this basic skill on neither primary school, not on secondary school, nor university.  It is only a couple of years ago, that I taught myself. It has skyrocketed my productivity and I can’t imagine working without a to-do list anymore. There are many different types and forms of to-do tools available. Also, the number of books and articles explaining how to use them are increasing. I’m sorry, I have to add my view too. I want to share my personal lifehack tips. Do you want to boost your productivity instantly? Then implement these six do’s today.

1.       Start with the things you need, but don’t want

‘If you’ve got to eat a frog, sitting around looking at it doesn’t make it any better.’ – Zig Ziglar

It might be something that you have procrastinated on for weeks – or maybe months. It might be something new, challenging, perhaps frightening. Fact: it pays to do the most difficult or unappealing first. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. Also, it creates mental space. Next, it makes all the other to-do’s more fun and easy.

2.      Finish yesterday

Even pros experience it regularly: ending the day with some unfinished tasks. According to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the founding father of positive psychology, you should set balanced, goals. Goals that are not too high but also not too low. So on your daily to-do list, you must aim for goals that are both realistic and ambitious. When you do this, you will experience that sometimes you can’t finish all tasks. What happens to them? As it’s easy (and perhaps more exciting) to start a new day with a fresh to-do list, your old to-do’s might stay unfinished for days, or even weeks. They are on the list for a reason, so it is wise to get them off as soon as possible. It might just be that frog you should eat.

Of course, it’s not always possible to adjust your planning. For example, I make a global week schedule in advance. So when I fail to complete the Tuesday list, I cannot always do them on Wednesday. When I don’t have time to finish them the day after, I make sure to at least re-plan them straight-away.

3.      Capture your to-do’s

To-do’s can pop up at any time. Make sure to write them down or save them on your phone or computer. Whenever you can, transfer them to your long term to-do list and  put a deadline to it. This way, you don’t have to keep them in your head, and you don’t have to worry about forgetting them.

I use the notes app on my phone to save ideas. Also, I use the voice record app to document more complex ideas. I also use my notebook. And on my computer I save them under the idea-tab in my well-structured Microsoft Excel document.

4.      Track your activities

When you start a to-do, make sure to track your time. There are multiple reasons why you should. For me, the most important thing is that it helps me focus. Once you click play, you want to work as fast as you can, without any distractions, like from other tasks, e-mail, thoughts that pop up or text messages. Especially when you are your own boss, tracking your time helps you build in accountability. So set the time, track the time, and you will get a better sense of the time it takes to do your tasks every day.

5.      Always have something to do

My to-do list contains things for today, and also for this week, month and year. When I have unexpected extra time (for instance: when I completed my to-do’s sooner than expected, when a meeting is cancelled, or when a task has to be paused for the day due to a blocker), I can always check the complete list to see what I can tackle right now. Again, I make sure to have a time estimate for all my to-do’s. So even when I just have a few minutes, I can always make sure they are productive.

This doesn’t mean that I always do this. Sometimes, I do just take a moment to read or relax.

6.      Plan in advance

Whenever you can, make sure to have a plan set for the day. I explained this in an earlier post:

 ‘I borrowed this one from perhaps the most productive person in the world, Tim Ferriss. In Four Hour Workweek, a classic, he taught me:

‘Don’t ever arrive at the office or in front of your computer with-out a clear list of priorities. You’ll just read associated e-mail and scramble your brain for the day. Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening.’

It works brilliantly for me. As soon as I wake up the next day, I am aware of my goals, and I almost can’t wait to start to achieve them.’

To do

I have showed you six lifehacks for your to-do list. To make it more convenient, I summed them up for you:

1. Start with the things you need to, but don’t want to do
2. Finish yesterday
3. Capture your to-do’s
4. Track your activities
5. Always have something to do
6. Plan in advance

Make sure to implement them now, so you too can sky-rocket your productivity.

by Nawaz

Nawaz (1987) from The Netherlands is one of the two brothers who founded INMWTS. As the secret behind 6 unusual, but successful brands, they live their dream since 2009 and encourage others to do the same. Go, nail your way to success!