How to write a to-do list

lbDo you ever feel lost or overwhelmed? Have you ever felt like you have so many things you want or need to do, but just don’t know where or how to start? Such feelings of confusion and lack of focus create frustration and procrastination.

We all may want to live a life full of success, accomplishments, and achievement. But, when your mind is cluttered, there is no way to plan, set, and accomplish goals. So what’s the solution? The answer is pretty easy and many may already be doing it, but are you doing it correctly? The solution is to extract the clutter from your mind and organize it on paper. In other words, you need to write a to-do/to-accomplish list.

So what’s the best way to write such a list?

Break down each goal/project into small tasks. Let’s say you’ve always dreamed of writing a book. So, shouldn’t you include “write a book” on your list? Nope. If you haven’t done it so far…writing it down and continuously staring at it will only taunt you further. Rather, break such big projects/goals into small, specific, manageable, and attainable steps/tasks. Instead of writing “write a book,” write “write 5 pages on the topic of fitness.” Or let’s say you want to clean the house. Don’t write “clean house” on the list. You must break it down into such specific tasks as “clean the kitchen” or “organize the closet.” In fact, you can break the tasks down even further. For instance you can break down “organize the closet” into “donate retired clothes” and “go through boxes on top shelf and eliminate all unwanted items.” You get the picture 🙂

Write tasks with specific actions and details. When writing out a to-do list, you have to avoid writing vague tasks. Imagine you’re writing the list for your assistant. Vague duties will only result in confusion and consequently frustration for both you and your assistant. Therefore, write out exactly what you want your assistant to do and how to do it. For instance, let’s say you need to update your blog. Don’t simply write “update the blog.” Rather, write out the specific actions needed:

1. Write outline for blog regarding: “How to prioritize”.
2. Write out rough draft for blog entry.
3. Edit blog’s rough draft.
4. Upload edited copy onto blog.
5. Post new blog entry on Facebook fan page for marketing purposes.
6. Tweet new blog entry on Twitter for marketing purposes.

Keep your list short. A rule of thumb is to have a list with no more than 20 tasks. If your list is too long…you’ll just be overwhelmed to look at and use it. Likewise, your list should change everyday. Remember, you shouldn’t leave tasks that are stagnant (i.e. write a book). These should be daily tasks that are crossed off upon completion each day.

Categorize and Prioritize tasks. Once you clear your head from all the clutter of to-dos in your mind, you can categorize and prioritize them on paper. You can categorize them based on project, such as “write a book” or based on similarities, such as categorizing all needed emails to be sent. Tasks can also be prioritized a number of ways. You can prioritize them based on importance or based on how quickly you can finish them. For example, sending out an email can only take a few minutes. So, to get one item immediately crossed off your list, you can choose to send out the email first.

Include personal tasks on your list. A to-do list should not only be comprised of work or chores. You should also include such items as your workouts, or taking your child to the park, or even remembering to wash your make-up off at the end of the night.

Create the list the night before. Rather than staying up all night thinking of what you need to do tomorrow, clear it out of your head before you go to bed. Spend about 15 minutes each night writing down all the things you need to do the following day. Then rather than waking up the next day trying to remember where you left off the day prior, you’ll already have a prepared list waiting for you to attack.

Follow your list. Napoleon Hill said in his “Think and Grow Rich” book that one of the most effective ways to be a productive success is to make your list and after prioritizing it take no other action than doing #1 on your list – do not move to #2 until you’ve completed #1. CEOs and successful business strategist have taken on this practice and have found it be the single best strategy for success in growing wealth and success.

Remember, the purpose of the to-do list is to eliminate the clutter in your mind and create a visual of what needs to be done to accomplish all your goals within the time allotted. This includes both professional and personal activities. Also, keep in mind that accomplishing a task doesn’t necessary have to be a chore. If you struggle with tasks, try making it into a game. For instance, you can establish time objectives for each task. Then, time yourself and see if you can do it faster than the time give. If you win, reward yourself.