You could simply remember what you need to do for the day, but writing it down helps you get clear on the tasks that matter most. And, usually, without a to-do list, your time management will go out the window. We all like to think we can follow a list in our heads, but we can be overwhelmed or distracted, and that’s when we stop thinking about what we need to do and waste a lot of time on things that don’t matter… like cat videos and hours of social media. So make a list that clearly tells you what you need to do today and holds you accountable! But, first, there are some things to think of when you are creating a to-do list.
Two Big Reasons You Need To Write A To-Do List
You may think, ‘My brain can remember what I need to do – and I never get overwhelmed with it, so why should I create to-do lists?
Here are two big reasons to keep lists if you want to be more productive:
- Lists help you free up brainpower used to remember the tasks and allow you to focus on other things that require your full attention. In other words, you can do things better, faster, harder.
- Creating a list makes you contemplate exactly what steps need to be taken to get to your goals or desired outcomes and often helps you think of tasks you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.
Don’t Be Vague
If you are too vague, you are going to waste too much time figuring out what is the best thing to do.
For instance, if you write down ‘get a post done’ for your blog, you still need to figure out what you want to base the post around and what you want to include in it. That can take hours away from your day – believe me, I know.
So it’s important to be specific in your tasks. For example, ‘Write a post about how to make to-do lists help you be as productive as possible.’
Of course, this means that you need to have specific goals and know which tasks you need to do each day to move you towards those goals. But, that’s what we are going to talk about next. For now, we just want to focus on the list and how to make it useful.
How Much Time Do You Need For Each Task?
Your to-do list may have a million things on it, but that doesn’t mean you can get a million things done!
You can start to beat yourself up if your list has tasks on it that require more time than you have in the day. And that will be counterproductive to your productivity.
So get real about how much time you have and then get real about what you can do in that time.
Write down your to-do list, estimate times for each task, and if it seems unlikely that you will be able to accomplish everything, whittle this list down to priority stuff.
Prioritize your tasks and make sure that you are going to knock off the top things on your to-list without fail.
Also, see if you can do two things at one time. That doesn’t happen often, but if you can, it can really free up some time.
How Much Time For Unexpected Things?
You also need to take into consideration how much time you need to allocate to unexpected things.
We all know that surprising things happen in the day that we can’t always ignore. Even things like traffic being heavy or a lineup being long can take away time from the things on your to-do list.
So I highly suggest giving your tasks a buffer time.
For instance, if you think that checking and replying to your email is going to take 30 minutes, add an extra 15 minutes just in case.
Or, if you are a single parent working from home, and you are often distracted by your children, add 30 minutes to a task when your kids normally start to want your attention.
Or, if you need a nap when you get stressed out, add 30 minutes to that task that always stresses you out.
It’s important to be realistic when it comes to this. You know yourself, your common distractions, and potential distractions. Don’t try to pretend like things don’t happen and avoid giving yourself some extra time when needed. The buffer time will help you keep your list manageable.