I don’t think you’ll find many adults who have never made a to-do list! They’re a simple way to record everything you need to do, help you to be more productive and allow you to stay in control when you feel like you’re drowning in responsibility. If you want to keep it simple, all you need is a couple of pieces of paper and a pen, so it’s practically free too!
Where do I start?
There are a few different ways you can approach it and there are endless pieces of advice out there.
In this blog article, we thought we’d share our top seven tips for creating a realistic to-do list for your small business, to help you effectively get on top of your long, medium and short-term tasks.
- Choose your method!
There are plenty of to-do list apps out there to help you get organised, but maybe a simple spreadsheet or a good old pen and paper list is sufficient for you? Some people love tech and enjoy the bells and whistles it can offer, whilst others prefer a straightforward, no-nonsense approach. It’s down to personal choice really! Just remember, there’s no point choosing something that you find cumbersome or overcomplicated. You just won’t use it if it doesn’t work for you!
- Create multiple lists
Wait. What?! I thought we were supposed to be making life easier? Bear with us on this one; we promise we’re not trying to make things more complicated!
Our suggestion would be to have the following three lists:
- A master list – this is effectively a download of your brain! Jot down everything you need to do and your high-level goals. This list is endless, and you will continuously be adding things to it.
- A weekly list – these are all the tasks that need to be completed in the next seven days.
- A high impact task list – these are the tasks that need doing ASAP (most likely your daily to-do list). Our advice? Try not to overload this one. Have you ever noticed how productive you are when you only have two or three things to do on your list?
- Leave some wiggle room!
Loading up your weekly or daily to-do lists with too many jobs is only going to have one outcome – unfinished tasks! Be realistic about how long each job is likely to take you, and factor in some wiggle room for unexpected calls/emails, distractions and creativity blocks. This buffer means that if all goes well and you finish your tasks quicker than you thought, you can always start some others and add to your feelings of accomplishment. Yay!
- Define the purpose of each task
Often, our to-do lists are just a collection of stressful, boring or mundane tasks. This can make us feel miserable, unenthusiastic and unmotivated. Have you ever tried writing down the purpose of each job on your to-do list? It’s a fantastic way to reframe them around your larger goal!
- Remove low/no-value tasks
Once you’ve defined how your tasks are going to help you achieve your overall objectives, it’s much easier to see which ones have little or even no value. Strike those off the list as they’re just going to sap your energy and distract you from what you are really trying to achieve. They are probably the tasks that get carried over from week to week. We all have them!
- Draw your to-do list
Research shows that drawing a list of words helps us remember twice as many compared to just writing them down. When we draw something, we use a wider range of skills. For example, we must imagine the item, think about its physical properties to work out how to put it onto the paper and then use our motor skills to sketch it. Researchers believe this combination helps us to create a much stronger memory of the word.
If you find yourself wasting time throughout the day reverting to your to-do list or have trouble visualising what needs to be done, try drawing it instead! It might just help.
- Eat the frog!
What’s that famous quote from Mark Twain? “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
When it comes to cracking on with the tasks on your HIT list, we suggest you start with the least appealing one. That way you can cross it off early, forget about it and get on with the tasks that you find more interesting. This is so much better than stewing over it and dreading it for the rest of the day!
Setting up your to-do list can be a great way to get back into the swing of things, especially at the start of a new year, new quarter or a new project. Whatever it is you need to do, try breaking it down into smaller, bitesize chunks to help with some of that overwhelm.