How To Make A To-Do List That Works

To-do lists are life. But they can also make or break productivity. They are a great tool to keep things organized but when the list is 100 tasks deep, it hardly makes a day any less stressful. It also makes it difficult to decide where to start. Prioritizing has been something on my mind lately with an increase of tasks and less time to do them in. I don't want to say I've mastered the to-do list because I seem to improve or tweak it every 6-8 weeks or so but I have at least gotten a knack for them. Here are my top tips on organizing that to-do list so that it actually works.

1. Write everything down. I mean every little task. Get them all down, work, personal, other. If they're all on the same page it will be easier to structure them out.

2. Create groups. Assign each task to a topic. Mine fall under Freelance, Blog, Personal, Meetings and Events. You can either lists the appropriate tasks under each topic on a new piece of paper or color code them with a highlighter or pen. I opt for the color code route because I use it moving forward.

3. Separate the tasks. That giant list of to-dos you wrote down in step 1, they now need to be assigned a group/topic. 

4. Break up larger tasks. If you have a to-do on your list that has several parts, break it down. Each moving part that goes into completing that to-do should be its own task. Whether or not all of them need to be done in the same day is up to you but you don't want to miss a step and make more work for yourself later. 

5. Assign deadlines. What has to be done today? What has to be done tomorrow? Instead of giving yourself a to-do list of 50 today, prioritize the tasks so that you can work in order of importance. This will help set you up for a week of productivity without wasting time on something not immediate or doing Thursday's deadlines before Tuesday's.

6. Rewrite your list. Now that everything has a topic and a deadline you can rewrite your list. I like having a weekly view of my to-dos because it allows me to see at a glance what each day will look like. It is also helpful in moving non-important tasks to a later day when I'm a bit overwhelmed. Make sure you keep the tasks color-coordinated from when you broke them into groups in step 3. If you have a personal task on Tuesday but you had a last-minute assignment pop-up, you know you can push that personal task to Thursday instead.

To-do lists are a work in progress for most people. This method helps me out a ton but if you need a little more organization, there's this new method called Bullet Journaling I recently came across. It uses a system of symbols to hyper-organize and plan your lists. You could also use productivity apps like Asana and Todoist. I personally use Asana for everything and it is a life saver. I still like to have that hand-written, color-coded weekly view to-do list on my desk though. 

How do you organize your to-do lists?