Learn how to better manage your time with an effective to do list strategy.

A Complete Guide On How To Make A To Do List

Accomplishing your daily goals and staying productive can be very challenging! We spend so much of our time trying to figure out what to do next, or what we need to get done first that we end up wasting valuable time that we could have been using to complete a task!

One of my favorite productivity hacks is keeping to-do lists. For all you list makers out there, hopefully, you will find this process easy to implement! But, if you don’t consider yourself a list maker, don’t run away!

List making is, in my opinion, one of the most important steps to improving your productivity. I have been making to-do lists for several years, and I have homed in on a system that is very easy to implement and won’t take up too much of your time!

The more you practice these steps, the easier it will be for you to come up with your to-do list!

Step 1: Brain Dump

In order to create an effective to do list, we need to write down everything we want to accomplish. This will allow you to see all these tasks in one place, leaving you with a clear mind.

You can do this step in your Bullet Journal or Planner, but personally, I prefer to do it on a separate sheet of paper. This allows me the freedom to be messy and not focus on the organization aspect just yet.

You are simply going to write down every task you can possibly think of that needs to be done. And I do literally mean every little task that is on your mind.

This can include everything from getting groceries to writing a novel, and everything in between. If it is something that requires your time, you are going to write it on the list!

Step 2: Referencing Your Calendar

Before we move away from our Brain dump list, I suggest you take a moment to check your monthly planner or calendar to see if you have any appointments, meetings or events scheduled this week that you may have forgotten about.

If there is something on your calendar that requires your time and or attention, add it to your brain dump list!

Step 3: Categorize

Next, we are going to categorize everything you have written down on your brain dump page. This step will be especially helpful if you find there is too much on your plate.

I think it is safe to say we are all guilty of saying yes to too many things, which results in overwhelm and burnout. We aren’t often able to recognize that we have too much on our plate until we are in the moment and falling behind. This process should help you identify any potential problems in your weekly plan so that you can come up with a plan that will ensure everything is taken care of without killing yourself in the process!

I like to categorize my items into four different categories.

  1. Eliminate
  2. Automate
  3. Delegate
  4. Schedule

If you look at these categories, you should notice something! Three of the four categories involve us not doing the task we have written down (or at least making it easier for us)! This may seem impossible, but I am going to share how I do this. I hope that this will help you see how you can bring your to-do list down a lot just by doing this step!

  1. Eliminate

When you go through each item on your brain dump list, I want you to ask yourself, can I eliminate this?

I am extremely guilty of putting too much on my plate when I just don’t have time! Some of these things may be extremely unnecessary, or just don’t need to be done right now.

When you do this step, be brutally honest with yourself. Does this item need to be done right now, or can it wait until a later time? If the answer is yes, write it down under this category. (I like to write it down in case I want to come back to it later!)

  1. Automate

For automate, you are going to go through the items on your brain dump list and determine if there is any way to automate certain items!

By setting things you do regularly on autopilot, then you don’t need to be wasting your time and energy on it every day or week! For this step, you may have to be a little bit creative, but it will save you a lot of time in the long run if you can let things run on autopilot!

One way I was able to save a lot of time was by implementing a rotating meal plan strategy. This rotation is 31 days long, and at the end, we go back to day 1! This has allowed us to re-use our grocery lists, and has eliminated all the time I once spent meal planning and doing meal prep! If you want to learn more about my Meal Planning techniques, see my blog post: 5 Layouts To Better Meal Planning In Your Bullet Journal.

  1. Delegate

For this step, you are going to go through your brain dump and determine which items you can delegate to other people.

If you just don’t have time to bake for your kids’ bake sale, find someone in your family who would be willing to help, or heck, hire someone to do it! There is no shame in not being able to do everything yourself!

There is no way to be everything for everyone, and it is okay to delegate tasks that aren’t helping you work towards your goal or accomplish all your weekly tasks!

  1. Schedule

Everything left on your list will be the stuff you have to schedule.

The reason I leave this category to the end is so that you are only left with the items that can’t be eliminated, automated or delegated. Basically, these tasks must be done by you!

To do lists can become very overwhelming which is why I use a unique categorizing method to take some of the tasks off my lists!

Step 4: Setting Time Parameters

This step is optional but is one of my favorite steps to complete! You are going to go through each item in your schedule category and write down how long it will take to complete that certain task.

There are two benefits to doing this;

1 – By adding up the time it is going to take to complete each individual task, you can ensure the tasks aren’t going to take more time to complete than you have.

An example of this would be; I have 49 hours per week to dedicate to these tasks. (Monday to Friday I have 5 hours; 5am-7am and 7:00 pm-10:00 pm, and Saturday to Sunday I have 12 hours; 10:00 am to 10:00 pm). If I add up the time it is going to take to complete my tasks and it adds up to more than 49 hours, then I know I need to eliminate, delegate or automate more tasks!

2 – By deciding how much time I must dedicate to each task, I am setting a goal for myself. If you do well with deadlines and goals, you will find this step extremely useful!

When deciding how much time to allot to each task, be realistic, but don’t give yourself too much time either! You want to be efficient with the time you have.

Step 5: Prioritize

By now, your tasks list should be considerably smaller than when you started! Plus, if you did the time parameter step, you should feel confident that you have enough time to complete every task that is on your list (barring legitimate emergencies!).

But now, you need to decide where you are going to start. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to deciding where you should start. But I do have a couple of things I like to keep in mind when I am prioritizing my tasks;

  1. Is there something on this list that is EXTREMELY important to get done? This may be a deadline for work, or something your kiddo needs for school. Anything with a deadline should be a high priority!
  2. What are your big goals? I always prioritize my task list based on my goals. For example, I am currently trying to build a business that will allow my husband and I to start a family, travel a little bit more, and pay off our debts! As a result, anything on my task list that relates to my business will trump tasks that I want to get done around the house. It is important that if you have a partner, you sit down together and ensure you both understand where your priorities are. In our personal circumstance, my husband is extremely supportive of this GIANT goal of mine, and so he doesn’t mind if the laundry piles up a bit, or if the floors haven’t been vacuumed in a few days!
  3. Have you ever heard the quote; “Eat That Frog!”? This famous quote comes from the idea that you should get your biggest tasks done first and leave your smaller tasks for later. By getting your big task out of the way, you can look forward to knowing the rest of your day/week is only going to get easier! This quote reminds me to prioritize the big tasks before the small ones!

Step 6: Schedule

The final step to creating your to-do list is scheduling your tasks! For this step, I would highly suggest you use a planner! This can be any planner you enjoy using. That may be a whiteboard that is hanging on the wall of your kitchen, a planner from the dollar store, or a Bullet Journal!

You are going to work through your list of tasks and schedule them based on the priority number you have given them, as well as how much time you must dedicate to the tasks at that time.

Another trick I like to do is planning certain things when I know they will come easily to me. For example, I do my best writing in the early hours of the day, so I will plan any writing I have to do for the week in my morning time slot.

There are a couple of different planning styles you can choose from. I have outlined them below, but I highly recommend trying them both to find what suits your personal circumstance best!

Weekly vs. Daily Planning

There is no right or wrong way to plan and will solely depend on your personal preference!

If you are someone who loves to plan everything in advance, a weekly schedule is probably best for you.

If you are someone who likes to plan as they go and maintain a little bit of flexibility, then daily scheduling is probably best for you!

I highly suggest you try both to see what suits you best! Even if you think you already know, I still recommend you try both. You may find you prefer daily planning, but you are accomplishing more with weekly planning. This would be helpful knowledge for you to have on weeks when you have more tasks than usual to complete!

Remember, you will develop your own scheduling routine as you take these steps week after week!

Whether you prefer daily planning or weekly planning, you can still create a to do list for the entire week, and fill in your planner as you go!

Take Action!

Hopefully, you are feeling inspired to go create yourself a to-do list for the upcoming week! While this blog post was incredibly long (sorry about that!), the process of doing it should not take you more than thirty minutes!

Don’t stress too much about doing it right or wrong! Your process will change as you evolve and get better at making your lists! You will even change this process I have provided over time to better suit your needs!

Do you have any to-do list tips you want to share with the community? Be sure to leave a comment below!

Until next time!


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