How to Craft the Perfect To-Do List and Actually Get Sh!t Done
Look, I love lists. Seriously, I love writing them, reading them, using them. Listicles are popular for a reason. They help us organize information, tame our thoughts, and make taking action easier. But, you need to craft them correctly, or they go from helpful to stressful.
The infamous to-do list can save us, or be our downfall and this post will help you create the purposeful list that actually helps you!
Stressful Vs Helpful
There are two main pitfalls I see in stress-inducing to-do lists, and both have to do with length.
If your list is too long, just looking at it will overwhelm you. Adding everything to one list, without designating purpose or importance, you don’t know what to start with or when it will end. On the flip side, having a list too short usually means you have a ton of them. In different formats. All over your house.
For a list to be helpful, it needs to have two characteristics: realistic and actionable.
What makes a list realistic
Before you roll your eyes and complain how your life isn’t realistic, hear me out. Here are 3 ways to make your daily (yes, daily) to-do list, more realistic.
I’ve talked about this before, and I’ll say it again. It’s great to have big dreams, but when it comes to writing down what you want to accomplish, I suggest taking it down a notch. You want items on your to-do list to be manageable. That whole, eat the elephant one bite at a time metaphor.
Think about time
There are two facets to this one. You need to be realistic about the time you have, and the time things will actually take.
How often do you cram 4 tasks into your morning, knowing full well you’d have to step through a black hole to check them all off? If Wednesdays are your busiest days, do not pile on more than is absolutely necessary. It’s OK if your to-do list consists of things that have a same-day deadline (i.e. grocery shopping for that nights dinner, a PTA meeting, soccer practice, etc.).
Next, factor in the time tasks should actually take. Avoid giving yourself a 30 minute window to grocery shop. How long will it truly take you to get there, check out, get home and unload?
Always buffer your schedule. It’s a much better feeling to be ahead than behind.
Highlight your top 1-3
You need to know where to start, and what has the highest priority. Highlight, star, or circle, just do something to designate the 1-3 tasks that must get done that day.
This makes it easier to know what to tackle first, and gives you a confidence boost when you see your top 1-3 are checked off, even if the rest of your list remains undone.
What makes a list actionable
Making it actionable consists of 3 mains things; making it specific, bite-size, and as easy as possible. Here’s what I mean:
I do not do well with gray areas. When something is too vague, it’s easy to shut down. You don’t know where to start, and often don’t know when you’re done. Be as specific as you can so you have parameters.
For example, I’ve dedicated Tuesdays to be the day that I pitch podcasts to be a guest and other blogs for collaborations. If I wrote “pitch” on my list, that is vague and not super helpful.
Instead, I’ll write “pitch 2 fitness podcasts, reach out to 2 prenatal blogs”. I now have a very specific goal to act on, and I know if I truly completed it.
Breakdown large tasks
Just like I preach about workout goals, it is crucial to breakdown any large task. Otherwise, you will most definitely get overwhelmed.
Read This: Why You Need Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
Sometimes, it will be obvious how to break down a bigger project. Instead of “plan vacation”, you can break it down into, “compare flights”, “decide on lodging”, “research family activities”, etc.
If you’re having trouble breaking it down, decide on the amount of time you want to spend. Block off 30 minutes (not too long or that will overwhelm you) of your day to start said project. By the end of that 30 minutes you will likely be on a roll enough to see natural bite-size tasks, or at the very least, be unstuck.
Make it easy
What I mean, is do as much prep work as you can. Instead of just writing, “make dentist appointment”, include their phone number and opening hours so you’re ready to roll.
Write your list, or at least your top 3 the night before. Oh man this is a lifesaver! Mornings are typically rushed, and under-caffinated. Waking up and knowing your top priorities makes it so much easier to dive in.
For more hacks to prepping for your day the night before, head to this post: 5 Things Moms Can Do At Night for an Easier Day
I work with women on their motherhood journey, when even a 3 task to-do list can be overwhelming! Having a fresh perspective and someone in your corner does wonders! Schedule your FREE 20 minute Discovery Call to decide if you’re a fit for health coaching!