by Paula Rizzo
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by your list and ignore it. But I want to tell you how to make the ultimate to-do list and stick to it, and I can do that with a list.
1. Just write it down. It’s easy to forget things that you don’t have right in front of you, so write down any task you need to do as soon as you think of it. It doesn’t matter if the list is in any particular order right now; just write it down.
2. Organize your list. Once you know many of the things you have to do, organize this list. Break it up into categories: work, home, kids, play, etc. Each area of your life should have its own list. Without categories, your list will overwhelm you, and then you will ignore them.
For the most part, I keep separate lists for separate things. So the work list is in my desk drawer at work, and the home list is on my desk drawer at home. I always know where these lists are and what types of things I’ll find on them. It helps my mind compartmentalize. That way, when I look at the items on my list, I’m ready to tackle that type of task. You’d be surprised how helpful this can be.
“It keeps things in perspective, and it keeps you from getting overwhelmed with just too many things,” Atlanta-based psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Tracey Marks points out. She also suggests chunking out your day into times where you start and stop tasks you tend to get lost in, like checking your e-mail. Sticking to this kind of plan can stream-line your attention, making you more efficient and productive.
3. Prioritize. Once you have your separate lists, go over the items on each and order them by deadline or importance. This will help you to stay on track and focus only on what needs to be done right now. While there may be other tasks that are easier to do, they might not be as important. Resist any temptation to jump into those tasks first just because they are easy; doing them will just put you behind schedule.
4. Rewrite. Now that you’ve organized your lists by category and determined what’s most important, rewrite your list. By making a clean list, which is easy to read, you will be more likely to refer to it and check things off in order. I’ve been known to write and rewrite lists again and again. Find a system that works for you. I don’t like a lot of clutter on my lists, so if a list is too messy, with all my notes everywhere, I will simply start over.
5. Repeat. In order to get things accomplished, make as many lists as you need to make. I make a list everyday and then add to it throughout the day. The next day I add the things that I didn’t get to the day before, and so on.
This is an excerpt from Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed. I’m offering a free chapter just for Laura’s readers at ListfulThinkingBook.com/Laura.
Paula Rizzo is an Emmy award winning television news producer in New York City. She’s also the founder of the productivity site ListProducer.com and author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed.
Laura’s note: How do you make your to-do list? Like Paula, or do you take a different approach? I don’t compartmentalize (separate lists for work, home, etc.) but I’m curious what others do.