There are only 24 hours available for everyone each day. And if you lost those hours, they will be gone and can never be retrieved.
- The Billionaire Who Uses A To-Do List
- Why Having A To-Do List Is Important To Your Success
- 1. Your To-do List Serves As A Reminder
- 2. Your To-do List Helps You To Prioritize Your Life
- 3. Your To-do List Allows You to Measure Your Progress
- 4. Your To-do List Can Motivate You
- 5. Your To-do List Can Boost Your Productivity
- 6. Your To-do List Makes You More Focus
- 7. Your To-do List Can Help You Better Plan Your Tomorrow
- The 7 Important Tips For Writing Your To-do List
- 1) Give Time Estimation for Each Task
- 2) Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
- 3) Write Your To-do List The Night Before
- 4) Categorize Your Tasks
- 5) Evaluate The Incompletes
- 6) Reward Yourself
- 7) Be Simple And Specific
- How To Write Your To-Do List
This is why time management and becoming productive is so important. If you often feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do, feeling busy all the time but are not getting anywhere, or you often miss deadlines and can’t seem to get things done, you need a to-do list.
A to-do list is a simple, yet effective tool that is freely available for anyone to use at their disposal. It is free and the only down side is that you will have to write the list and work on the items.
Most people are not getting ahead because they are directionless and they go through life aimlessly. Like a lost sheep, they follow the crowd to wherever the crowd brings them. Never let this happen to you.
You have to be proactive and start living your life with purpose, starting from using a to-do list and get things done.
Now, some people may think that having a to-do list is not going to work. This is not true. In fact, a to-do list is just like goal setting, visualization, meditation, and affirmation. It is not that these tools do not work, it is the person who practices the method wrongly and causes these tools to lose its effectiveness.
And when people do not seem to get results from using a to-do list, they blame that say that having a to-do list is not going to work.
Do you know that a to-do list can be like a lighthouse? Showing you direction and telling you what you need to get done? When you go through your day without knowing what to do, you will be living life passively.
You will do whatever that comes to you and act according to other people’s plan, not your plan. Conversely, when you know what needs to be done, you will be able to focus and dive straight into the task and get things moving.
By having such a list, you keep everything important and everything you need to do in one place so that you will never forget whenever you get distracted.
The Billionaire Who Uses A To-Do List
Richard Branson, the successful entrepreneur who founded the Virgin Group empire once wrote in his blog that the success of his business is mainly because of having a to-do list.
Billionaire Branson has built multi-billion-dollar businesses in eight industries ranging from airlines, transportation, mobile, hospitality to travel. He is worth $5 billion and has written numerous best-selling books including his autobiography, “Losing My Virginity” and “Screw It, Let’s Do It”.
Branson is often regarded as the go-to business guru and a lot of other successful people seek his advice be it in life or in business. Branson said on his blog that his secret of success and to get everything done is to make lists, lots of them. He always carries a notebook to write down ideas, insights, things he wanted to do, calls he needs to make, and plans to implement.
He said it in his own words, “Each day I work through these lists. By Ticking off each task, my ideas take shape and plans move forward”.
Branson also credits some of his most successful business to the simple and powerful habit of writing down ideas. Whenever an idea hit him from the random moment, he will stop, jot down the idea and review it whenever possible.
If Richard Branson, a billionaire that is so successful suggested people to use a to-do list to get things done and to move ahead in life, don’t you think you should do that too?
Branson also mentioned that he wakes up at around 5am each morning. He will exercise, sports, spending time with family, plan and then working on his businesses.
Despite his busy schedule, he found that having a to-do list is one the most important things that able to help him focus on the work at hand. He knows what to do and when to do them.
This is what contributes to his success, and to many people’s successes as well.
Besides that, Wunderlist, the time management App that helps people to manage their to-do list has quickly become a popular App. Microsoft sees the potential and bought Wunderlist, studies the system and then launches their new similar App called To-Do.
If having a to-do list is not working, why do so many people experience growth in productivity and says that they are able to get things done from using Apps like Wunderlist? Do you know that there are over 13 million Wunderlist users worldwide today?
Studies have shown that the distractions and interruptions around you are increasing at a drastic pace. And people’s attentions are decreasing at a dramatic rate due to technologies.
We are distracted by our smartphone almost every moment. You want to check your social media for updates, you want to search for entertainment from YouTube, your friends and colleagues buzz you from time to time, and not to mention the ever-rising advertisements that take away your attention too.
This is what makes having a to-do list important. It not only help you get things done, it reminds you and show you the right path to living the life you want.
Why Having A To-Do List Is Important To Your Success
Now you know that successful people use a to-do list to maintain their heavy workload and improve their productivity. You can do the same by applying the same technique and strategy.
If you have tried using a to-do list and you found that it is not working for you, it is not the tool’s problem, but rather, it has to do with yourself and the approach you implement the technique.
If you are still not convinced whether a to-do list is going to work for you, consider these reasons below.
1. Your To-do List Serves As A Reminder
One of the best benefits anyone can get from using a to-do list is that he or she will never forget about the work he needs to get done. Humans can be forgetful at times. Do you ever have a time when you forget about something important that you need to do like making an important call?
And by the time you remember to make the call, it will be too late. It can either be the shop has closed or the client is no longer there? This can be easily solved by using a to-do list. You will never forget the important tasks that you need to get done during the day.
2. Your To-do List Helps You To Prioritize Your Life
Another key element of success is that successful people know exactly what to do and they always seem to be able to do the right thing and make the right decision.
How can you do that? The answer is simple, by knowing what you want. And you can always remind yourself of what you want through a to-do list. When you write down the things that you want to do, you are prioritizing your life.
You can then focus your time on the most important work that gives you the biggest impact in your life. Most people are not producing outstanding success because they focus on the wrong thing.
Writing down a to-do list allows you to prioritize what is important to you. So stop living your life like a lost sheep and start taking control of your life. Use a to-do list to achieve this.
3. Your To-do List Allows You to Measure Your Progress
How can you tell if you are moving in the right direction or if you are doing the right thing? You cannot if you do not have a system to measure your progress.
However, if you have a to-do list, you can tell if you are moving ahead. By just taking a quick glance at your list, you will know that if you are moving ahead, winning, or falling behind.
If you are not measuring your progress, you can never get ahead. Successful people are always moving forward because they know and they measure their progress.
When you see a lot of ticks on your to-do list at the end of the day, it gives you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. You know you are on the right track and are getting things done.
4. Your To-do List Can Motivate You
Why do you think people set goals, visualize their dreams and practice affirmations? They want to get motivated and never lose their sight on what they want to accomplish in life.
And you can achieve the same result by using a to-do list. Whenever you look at your to-do list, you remind yourself about the goals you want to achieve and the targets you want to hit.
This is especially true when you look at your list and you see a lot of “victory signs” or the ticks. The more ticks you have on your to-do list, the better you will feel. And the better you feel, the more driven you will be for tackling the next task.
5. Your To-do List Can Boost Your Productivity
When you know exactly what you need to do and get done, you can then hit the ground running the first thing when you start your day. You save the time without having to think or organize your day because you already know what to do.
This will make you more productive and allows you to accomplish more in both your personal and professional life.
Most people get to the office the very last minute and then they spend their sweet time thinking what to do. Things will be different when you have a to-do list.
6. Your To-do List Makes You More Focus
You don’t have to waste time on unnecessary tasks. Harvard Business Review once showed that 90% of managers wasted valuable time through poor time management.
By using a to-do list, it allows you to better focus on your task at hand. You can shun yourself from distractions and interruptions. Whenever someone approaches you for other less important matter, you know you should reject them because you have something more important at hand to settle.
Basically, your to-do list can work as a bunker and cover you from distractions. You can become more focused and able to be “in the flow” to perform better.
7. Your To-do List Can Help You Better Plan Your Tomorrow
Do you know what will you be doing or where will you be tomorrow? Well, your to-do list can tell you the answer.
If there are any incomplete task at the end of the day, you can simply carry forward the task and continue it tomorrow. This gives you an edge to know your schedule and better plan for your life.
As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, and this is true. People who did not plan for their days will become a part of other people’s plan.
The 7 Important Tips For Writing Your To-do List
So now that you understand why it is important to have a to-do list, it is time for you to create your own list. First, you must learn these 5 important tips before you go on to write your to-do list.
1) Give Time Estimation for Each Task
One of the most common mistakes most people make on their to-do list is that they often overestimate their ability to handle the tasks.
They thought that they have all the time in the world and thus, they put down plenty of tasks and at the end of the day, they find it difficult to complete all the tasks that they have written down.
This is not a wise move because when you see that your to-do list is still full of actions need to be taken and half day has gone by, you will feel like a failure and lose your motivation.
Therefore, the solution to this is to give each task a time estimation. How much time do you need to complete your tasks? Do not overestimate yourself and schedule too many tasks all at once.
Assign time estimation to understand how you will go through your day.
2) Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
If you want to be more productive and get things done, you must learn to prioritize quality over quantity. Just like the Pareto 80/20 Rule, you want to spend 20% of your time to work on a high-impact task that will give you 80% of the result, and not the other way round.
Most people, however, spend most of their time working on menial tasks that did not give them the most result. They choose to work on 80% of the work that only gives them 20% of the result.
Remember, you are writing down your to-do list so that you can become more effective and productive. You do not want to become busier and get nothing done when the day ends.
And do not write down your to-do for the sake of writing the tasks. Make sure you prioritize and work on the most important and result-yielding tasks first.
Some experts suggest a to-do list should have no more than 5 action items. The average is about 3 to 5 action tasks in a list. If you have too many tasks to do, you will overwhelm yourself and most of the tasks will be the low-impact work.
Thus, prioritize and find out the most important task and work on them the first thing in the morning. It is the quality that matters here.
3) Write Your To-do List The Night Before
Some people prefer to write down their to-do list early in the morning before they start their day. Do you know that the morning hours are not ideal for planning your day?
This is because for many people, usually, morning is the freshest, high-energy and productive moment, therefore, you should hit the ground running straight in the morning and not to use the time for planning.
The best time for planning and writing your to-do list, according to experts, is at night before you go to bed. When you sleep, your subconscious mind remains awake. And you can leave your list to your subconscious. And then next morning when you get up, you know what to do and you can jump on your tasks straight away.
4) Categorize Your Tasks
Another important key to making your to-do list effective is to categorize your tasks. According to the famous novelist Grothaus, he used to feel frustrated with his to-do list because he did not seem to be able to complete all the tasks he wrote down at the end of the day.
And he decided to separate his lists into three categories, digital quickies, work and real world. In the digital quickies category, he wrote down all the tasks that he can complete on a smartphone or laptop, which usually were tasks that can be done in a shorter time frame.
As for his work category, this is the real work that has high-impact and important to do. And his third category consisted of errands and other less important activities.
Michael discovered that after he categorized his to-do list, he became more productive and able to get all his work done within the day. He tackled tasks from his digital quickies category first because those were simple and easy-to-do tasks. After he did those tasks, he felt satisfied and ready to take on the real work. This is how he becomes productive and handles his day.
And you should do the same. Like Richard Branson, he has plenty of lists that help him manage his days, weeks, months, years and even life.
When you categorize your list, you will be able to see your work day from a bigger picture and organize your day from a better perspective.
5) Evaluate The Incompletes
Sometimes, there will be tasks in your list that will never get done. You keep on postponing them and whenever it is time for you to do them, you procrastinate.
For these tasks, you have to evaluate the reasons. Why do you put them off in the first place? Do you feel overwhelming? Do you hate doing them? Or you do not know how to deal with them?
When you evaluate your incompletes, you will understand yourself better. You will know why you procrastinate and put things off. This will lead you to the real cause of the problem and you should solve it.
For example, some people keep postponing cleaning their closet. They procrastinate and leave the task to the next day and the next day. After doing the evaluation, only they discovered that they hate doing the cleaning and they find that the task will take up a lot of their time.
Well, you can simply solve this by delegating the cleaning to other people or outsource the task. Or you can be creative and get someone else to clean it together with you so that it will be more fun.
Evaluate and identify the cause so that you can come up with a solution to tackle the problem.
6) Reward Yourself
This is a great way to motivate yourself to do more. Whenever you have completed and ticked off a task on your to-do list, reward yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back. Take a rest and get a snack.
No matter how small the task may seem, you should practice to reward yourself whenever you have accomplished it. Of course, the bigger the task, you can choose to reward yourself better.
For instance, you can reward yourself with your favorite beverage if you have completed a daily task. You can reward yourself with a movie when you have completed a weekly task. And you can reward yourself with a vacation when you have accomplished your yearly task and goal.
The key is to build the habit of taking action and to associate taking action with rewards in your brain.
7) Be Simple And Specific
This is another common mistake people make with their to-do list. They failed because they make their list too difficult to understand or they are not being specific enough.
Do you know that vague goals produce vague results? The same goes with a to-do list. An unclear to-do list produces no result.
First, make your to-do list simple. You can choose the best medium that is most convenient to you. It can be your smartphone, your laptop, or simply writing it in a notebook.
Some people use Apps like Wunderlist while some people prefer the traditional way of writing the list on paper like Richard Branson. There is no right or wrong, but you have to find out which one works best for you.
Next, make sure your action items are specific and workable. Make sure your list of items are physical actions, they can be performed and are actionable. The tasks should be something you can actually do and perform.
For example, don’t just write down “to publish a blog post”, instead, be more specific and write, “to write a 2,000 words article and publish it on my blog by 3pm”.
By the way, don’t forget to include a deadline.
How To Write Your To-Do List
Finally, it is time to actually sit down and write your to-do list. Here are some of the important steps you can take tonight when you write your list.
Step #1 – Brainstorm Your Tasks
The first step is to identify all the works and tasks that you need to get done for the day. Write down every idea and thought that come into your mind.
You can do this either with your mobile or laptop, or simply write them down on your notebook.
They can be any task ranging from work, family, sports, and leisure to housework. Do not worry about the complexity for now as you are in the brainstorm mode. Just write down whatever comes into your head.
Step #2 – Categorize and Assign Time Estimation
The next thing you need to do is to categorize your tasks and include the time estimation for each task.
Don’t worry about the category, in fact, you can create your own category like how Michael Grothaus created a category called “digital quickies”.
As for time estimation, you just need to associate the task and put down the time you think you can finish the task. Remember to include a time frame or a deadline for your tasks too.
Step #3 – Prioritize and Rewrite Your Tasks
The third step is to prioritize your tasks. This is considered one of the most important steps because if you prioritize the less important tasks, you will spend your entire day being busy and doing work that gives you less or no result.
Make sure your tasks are in alignment with your goals. Meaning, the completion of your tasks will move you forward to reaching your goals.
And then rewrite your tasks on a new page. This is optional, but it is highly recommended that you do a rewrite because your list can be messy and full of scribble and notes.
Make your to-do list simple to understand by rewriting the list after you have done the brainstorm.
Step #4 – Revisit Your List Regularly
What you need to do in this step is crucial. Your to-do list will lose its effectiveness if you skip this step.
It is important to visit your list regularly. One of the reasons a to-do list is powerful because it consciously reminds you of what you need to do. And there is no point to write your list and put it away and forget about the tasks you have written down.
There are many ways you can do this. If you are using Apps, you can set reminders. You can also make your list as your computer wallpaper if you are in front of your computer most of the time. Some people may go one step further by posting their list on their fridge or bathroom mirror where they can see it often.
You can also write down your list on a paper of a business card size and keep it in your wallet. This way whenever you take out your wallet, you will be reminded of the things you need to do.
Step #5 – Be Accountable
If you want to get your to-do list complete, you must commit and be accountable for what you have written down.
For instance, you can share your to-do list with other people. Whenever you make a public commitment, you will find it difficult to not follow through. You will be more committed because you have announced it to the world that you are going to do it.
Of course, you don’t have to tell the whole world if you do not want to. Just share it with one or two persons that believe in you and who will encourage you to accomplish more.
Step #6 – Learn from Your To-do List
The final step is to learn from your to-do list. Just like how you evaluate your tasks, you need to do a post-mortem or self-reflection from time to time to make sure that you are on the right track and are doing the right work.
A to-do list will serve no purpose if it is not helping you in becoming more productive and living the life you want.
Ask yourself this question, “Am I moving forward toward my goals and dreams? Or am I moving away?”
Your answer will become your feedback to improve your life.
Making Your To-Do List Works
For many people, a to-do list is like a list of boring, mundane, and stressful tasks that sap our energy away rather than motivating us to get more done.
Art Markman, the author and professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas states that this is how most people feel about their to-do list. And one way to overcome this is to connect your list with your bigger purpose in life.
When you connect your daily tasks list with your bigger purpose, you will then able to see the why behind those works you need to do.
Studies showed that we are able to perform at the optimum level and enjoy the most when we work at things that we see as our calling. Therefore, connect your bigger purpose with your everyday to-do lists, make them meaningful and enjoy the work that gets you what you want.