How to make a Successful To Do List

Posted in summerOffice
How to make a Successful To Do List

Are you one of those people who completes a task that is not on the to do list, but still writes it anyways just to cross it off? Yes? Me too. In 4th grade, my primary school supplied us all with a planner that then became a mandatory thing we had to buy from the school store. Since then, I had become so diligent {maybe borderline obsessed} with planning, organizing and listing out my goals and tasks. Today, my friends and family are always exclaiming “I don’t know how you do it all!” To be completely transparent, it’s all about having your to-do list just right.

The idea for this post came from a recent work event. It’s basically summer now in London and the long evenings mean lots of summer soirees. I had an evening work event {that required me to wear this beautiful dress} and with that ignited a conversation about women in the work place and everything we juggle. Most of the women I’m surrounded by are older, corporate savvy and very much juggling family life with everything else that happens in an office. For me, I spoke about my social life, blog life and work life and that became a major topic of conversation. Honestly, it’s all about a quality, streamlined to do list. So naturally, I get asked regularly on how to make a successful to do list…

There’s a method to how to make a successful to do list and it that helps me get through each day and complete major tasks even over the span of a few months. But before we begin, I thought I would share a to do list app I’ve been using for years and have sung praise about it before and that’s Todoist! It helps you break every single detail down and the interface is so easy to use, I don’t even need to give you a tutorial.

PS - Do you follow me on Twitter? Make sure you do because I share a #CEProductivitiyTip!

How to make a Successful To Do List
How to make a Successful To Do List

What I Wore

dress c/o HOBBS LONDON shoes c/o HOBBS LONDON purse TARA ZADEH via NET-A-PORTER

This midi chinoiserie dress is pure silk and pure luxury. Stitched and tucked in the right places, it falls beautifully and flirts lovingly with the wind giving any woman a gorgeous silhouette. The back has a little peephole under the top button and above the zipper making it the perfect delicate detail for an evening look. The lenght and sleeves allow it to be perfect for a work soiree and the color makes a statement! Part of the Hobbs Palace Collection, it is naturally paired with gem-colored accessories like a ruby kitten heel and a sapphire handbag!

Paper and Pencil

Take out a notepad and a pencil and just write down everything, I mean every little thing down. All the to-do’s and don’t worry about how big or small or important it is. Just focus on writing everything down on paper. I start off on paper and pen purely because I can do it distraction free.

Timeframe

Sometimes my tasks require immediate action, sometimes they’re weekly and sometimes they need to be done in 3 months (but require a lot of work before that). I always write down tasks that are on my mind, even if it’s something that needs to be started in 2 months time. This helps me plan ahead of time. I usually draft out a to-do list at the start of each quarter and then on Sunday evenings before a new week, but weekly to-do lists are revised daily.

Labeling

This is where making a to-do list gets exciting. It is also precisely where you can streamline your to-do list and get more done than you think you can.

  • Difficulty: First, on a scale of 1-3 label each task with its perceived difficulty. 1 being the easiest and 3 being difficult. If you’d like, you can break them down further. Sometimes I use a 1-5 scale and 1 usually are mindless household chores.
  • Scheduling: Grab a red pen, blue pen and black pen. With a red pen, I tick off what needs to be done as soon as possible, blue pen is something that can wait a few weeks and black pen is for what can be done in a few months. Remember I like to create this master to-do list for each quarter–so that covers about 4 months.
  • Bigger Tasks: Now take your pencil and make a square around the tasks that could be broken down into little tasks to complete. Usually my more difficult tasks are the ones that need breaking down. For example, each quarter I do a massive purge/clear out of my room, vanity and kitchen. This is a massive feat, so I usually give myself multiple tasks over 1 week to finish it all. These tasks will include: clear out medicine cabinet, organize undergarments drawer, take donations to charity shop, et cetra.

Breaking It Down

Once you’ve identified your bigger, more difficult tasks, break each bigger task down into smaller tasks and determine how long it will take you to complete. For me, I give myself 4 weeks to write a client reports and 1 week to do a flat purge. A lot more goes into a client report than a flat purge and it doesn’t make sense to do a flat purge over the span of 3-4 months unless you’re close to being on an episode of hoarders…?

Then take those sub-tasks and rate them in terms of difficulty as well from 1-3 with your pens!

Make sure you keep this master list because when you are about 20%, 40% or 80% completion of these bigger tasks, you can revise these sub-tasks to see if you need to add or modify anything.

Your Daily To Do List

Once I’ve broken everything down based on difficult and priority, it’s time to put together a massive to-do list for each day. Your first few weeks will always look a bit more “heavy” because your more immediate plans are certain where you already have concrete daily tasks.

  1. Take your bigger tasks and organize their sub-tasks from what needs to be done first to last and then determine the deadline of each bigger task.
  2. Once you’ve determined the deadline of the bigger task, work in the sub-tasks into your calendar backwards starting from the deadline. This will ensure that you get everything complete in a timely manner and don’t give yourself too much or too list to do at a certain time.
  3. Then incorporate the other tasks into your daily to-do lists. Follow the 1-3-5 rule for each day. I try to complete 1 difficult task, 3 medium tasks and 5 easy tasks per day. I don’t give myself any more or any less than that. If I do end up completing everything before my day is over, I either treat myself to the rest of the day off or add in another 1 or 2 easier tasks.
How to make a Successful To Do List
How to make a Successful To Do List

Reflection

When speaking to people on how to make a successful to do list, I always get baffled looks when I say to “go back and check what you did AND actively cross off your tasks.” Going back to the idea of just writing down a task for the sake or crossing it off, we do that to motivate ourselves and to visibly see our progress. Looking back at what you’ve accomplished will help you understand a few things:

  • Work ethic: when are you most productive? Do you work well under pressure? When do you like to do the hardest tasks? The answer to these questions will help your streamline your days in the future. I noticed my best work was actually coming through very early in the mornings before I even got read to head out for the day, so I started waking up early around 530am and just called it a day earlier than most people do.
  • Improvements: have you mislabeled one of the task’s difficulty? You think you need to breakdown a task into further sub-tasks?
  • Motivate: Nothing makes me feel more content than seeing the amount of work I have completed even if it’s 1 important thing and bunch of menial things.
  • Breaks & Patterns: I’ll notice things like my productivity levels being really high end of the week compared to the beginning of the week, so I’ll try to plan my days accordingly and factor in the best places to give myself breaks.

So, there you have it. My actual approach to how to have a successful to do list. This method has gotten me through university, grad school, starting my own business and now juggling all sorts of spheres in my life from short-term projects and crossing off long-term goals.

How to make a Successful To Do List