I want you to get better at completing tasks, managing multiple projects, and enjoying the feeling of accomplishment on a daily basis.
To-do lists are essential to getting things done. Lots of people ask me how I juggle so many projects, businesses, and ideas at one time. The answer: I’m a huge believer in to-do lists.
I think I’ve tried every to-do list app in existence, and I always come back to physically writing out my to-do lists. Here’s why:
Creating to-do lists online leads to going other places online.
When I used slick to-do list apps, I always found myself getting distracted and ending up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or heading off to some other catacomb of the Internet. Unless you create and update to-do lists with all other programs closed and WiFi turned off, you will get distracted. It’s a fact of life.
3 Ways Writing Out Your To-Do Lists Will Help You Get More Done
I really want you to give writing out your to-do lists a shot because it’s proven to be so incredibly beneficial for me. There’s just something about physically drawing a thick line through a completed item on a to-do list. You can feel the accomplishment. You get to physically enjoy checking an item off your list. It’s just not the same when you highlight an item on a screen and hit the delete key (or format the text to strikethrough).
Step #1 in writing out your to-do lists: Rewrite to-do lists daily
One thing that really helps me tear through my to-do lists is to rewrite them each day. That means I have to go back to the previous day’s list and rewrite all the to-dos I have not finished yet. It creates a built-in accountability mechanism to just get things done so you don’t have to keep rewriting them over and over again. When you type out your to-do lists you can copy and paste (that’s easy and effortless). But actually rewriting a list of things from the previous day is cumbersome and annoying. It keeps you very in tune with your progress.
My tools of choice for writing out my daily to-dos are:
Simple yellow post-it notes
I looooove using post-it notes for my most important daily to-dos. You can’t fit too many things on a post-it note and you can keep it in front of you at all times.
A convenient notebook you keep you
My go-to notebook is the Panobook created by Dan and Tom from StudioNeat. It’s a dot grid notebook, so if you’re a lined notebook fan, you’ll have to search elsewhere. There’s just something about the versatility of the Panobook that I really love.
Step #2: Break big to-do items into smaller tasks
This is one of the biggest problems with to-do lists: We don’t write specific small tasks, we write big picture items.
If you want to get the website up for your next business or project you do not want to put “get the website up” on your to-do list. That’s too big of an item. Instead, you need to boil it down into the smallest steps possible. Here’s an example:
- Finish the website wireframes for the designer
- Get the designer to deliver first crack at designs
- Make tweaks on design and get final files
- Talk to my developer about hosting the website (where is it going? cost?)
- Give final design files (when ready) to the developer
- Have the developer code the site
- Buy the domain
- Get the email capture stuff working (sign up for MailChimp, give developer access)
- Write the metadata for the title, keywords, and description
- Write the homepage copy
- Write the about page copy
- Get my headshot ready
- What links do I want in the navigation? What about in the footer?
- Get photos from Unsplash for contact us page
- Show the website to a friend for typos and feedback
- Launch the website!
That’s 16 individual tasks and there are probably 16 more that would be added in the process. You’d write this entire list in your notebook and then each day you’d write 3-4 tasks on a post-it note and knock them out. Rinse and repeat until you finish the project!
When each to-do item is something simple and achievable you can get it done and move onto the next one. Plus, this process of breaking down bigger tasks into smaller to-dos helps you avoid mistakes and forgotten steps.
Step #3: Create multiple types of to-do lists
Besides breaking to-do list items into smaller tasks, I also like having multiple to-do lists. As I mentioned, I use post-it notes and a journal to keep track of my written to-dos. Another thing I like to do is break to-dos into daily, weekly, and monthly lists.
The daily to-dos are on, you guessed it, post-it notes and are tasks I need to get done immediately. Once a to-do item is completed I cross it off with a nice fat Sharpie marker. Once all the to-do items on the post-it note are finished I can crumple the small yellow piece of paper up and throw it away (feels so good!).
The weekly to-dos in my notebook keep me on schedule for whatever project(s) I’m working on and give me a place to look back on how much I have (or have not) accomplished. I typically write out my weekly to-dos every Monday morning and refer back to them multiple times each week.
My monthly to-do list is almost always one 8.5 x 11 sheet of plain white paper that I tape to the wall in front of my desk is a constant reminder of everything I’m working on. These are the bigger picture items I need to stay focused on and seeing them in front of my face every day really helps!
This may seem like a lot of work for to-do lists, but it’s really only 5–10 minutes per day and well worth the effort.
Give this simple to-do method a chance!
To-do lists are my secret weapon to being able to launch a lot of projects. I want you to get better at taking action and accomplishing your work, which is why I’m sharing this simple to-do process with you.
If you constantly find yourself trying new to-do apps but never sticking with them (or worse, not actually getting your work done), switch to pen and paper and see how it goes. I have a hunch it might work better.