How to make an effective to-do list for a better quality of life


How to make an effective to-do list

In this article you will discover how to make an effective to-do list. These tips are the result of field experience with people who want to improve their productivity and scientific research.

Here are briefly these 11 tips on how to make an effective to-do list:

1 – Identify your most important goals and test if they agree with your values

2 – Combine your actions with your goals

3 – Write down your to-do list strategically

4 – Take advantage of your learning to improve yourself

5 – Do not plan too many tasks

6 – Plan breaks between tasks

7 – Check if you have completed all your tasks

8 – Eliminate useless tasks

9 – Delegate tasks that can be performed by other people

10 – Automate some tasks

11 – Block time to solve your problems, improve your creativity and identify the habits that limit you

1 – Identify your most important objectives and test if they agree with your values

Before you start writing your to-do list, it is important to clarify what are the most important goals you want to achieve this year.

In order to achieve these goals, you will need to take several actions.

But if you do not have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, writing a list of actions will just give you the illusion of progress. But doing this will take you away from what you need to improve the quality of your life.

If you do not know how to define your goals, I suggest you discover my article on how to set and achieve your goals.

It is only after the definition of your objectives, that you will be able to proceed to the writing of your to-do list.

Be careful not to fall into the trap of setting goals that are at odds with your most important values ​​or that can trigger a conflict of values ​​and self-sabotaging mechanisms.

Values ​​are what you consider most important in your life. Examples of values ​​are health, friendship, freedom, integrity, respect, couple, family, etc.

Each individual attributes an order of importance different to his values. In order for your actions to achieve goals that give you real satisfaction over the medium and long term, you need to identify and prioritize your values.

Operational tip: write and prioritize your list of values and goals

Answer the following questions:

What are my 3 most important goals that I want to achieve this year and why are they so important to me?

What are my most important values?

Write a tentative list of your values ​​and get ready to update it in the next few weeks. At first this exercise is not easy, but with time you will come to a stable list of what is in line with your priorities.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Are there one or more value conflicts? If so, what can I do to overcome these conflicts?

Are my goals consistent with my most important values, or do I need to redefine my goals?

By doing this you will have a clear vision of your values, goals and actions to meet them.

Now that you have a clear vision of your values, goals, and actions, you can go on to the second tip on how to write an effective to-do list, which is to combine the actions you want to achieve with your goals.

2 – Combine your actions with your goals

In order to create an effective to-do list, I propose to associate each task with an objective that is important to you.

Doing this will allow you to make sure that your actions are consistent with the professional and personal goals you want to achieve.

At the same time, doing so will allow you to become aware of the tasks that you are stubbornly pursuing but that do not contribute to your satisfaction and your personal development. These tasks must be eliminated and replaced by more productive tasks.

Operational tip: decompose each goal and list of tasks

Once your goal is identified, write a list of actions that could help you reach it. Continue to prepare this list of actions without stopping for ten minutes.

Now check if these actions are consistent with your goal and eliminate those that are not.

Then prioritize these actions according to their likely level of effectiveness. If you find that one of these actions has been done in the past without success, remove it from your list or if you want to keep it, find a way to increase its effectiveness.

Summarizing, associating your actions or tasks to your goals allows you to stay focused on your most important life projects while being aware of how you are wasting your time and energies.

In this way, you will have a first understanding of the tasks that bring you closer and those that move you away from your goals.

Now that you have established a consistency between your objectives and your actions, you can proceed to the writing of your to-do list.

3 – Write down your to-do list strategically

When should you write your to-do list?

Ideally you should prepare it in the evening before going to sleep because in this way you will not waste time to decide which task to start and you will immediately take action.

What type of to-do list should be favored?

If you do not have experience in terms of to-do list, I advise you to write a daily list. Otherwise, it is better to focus on a weekly task list.

Write your to-do list:

  • by including the actions that will have the most positive impact on your goals
  • prioritize, plan and execute actions during your day, taking into account their likely level of effectiveness and your energy level

Ideally, you should identify your most strategic tasks and perform them when you have the most physical and mental energy.

Doing this will maximize your chances of completing all of your important tasks.

If you want to understand the impact of energy on your productivity and your well-being, I suggest you to discover the article, high energy level for more professional and personal efficiency, which deals in depth with this subject.

Operational tip: identify the 3 most important actions of the day and measure your level of energy

The day before you go to sleep, put in your to-do list the 3 actions that will bring you closer to your goal and program them when you are feeling great.

If you know you are doing well in the morning, schedule these actions at this time of the day.

Identify other important actions outside the top 3 and run them when your energy level is intermediate. Beside each action of the top 3 note:

  • why this action is so important to you
  • what will be the benefits if it is finalized
  • what will be the disadvantages if you procrastinate and do not take action

If you have problems procrastinating, I advise you to read the following two articles: how to stop procrastinating and 11 tips to stop procrastinating at work and at home.

When your energy level is lower, plan and perform simpler tasks that require less concentration.

Now that you have a clear vision of the strategic actions and the variability of your energy level, you can go on to the fourth tip on how to write an effective to-do list, namely, take advantage of your learning to improve yourself.

4 – Take advantage of your learning to improve yourself

At the end of the day what matters is not only what you have accomplished but also what you have learned about yourself.

Be curious and always ask yourself productive questions:

What did I learn from my to-do list?

How can I implement tomorrow what I learned today?

How did I successfully complete my to-do list?

Am I really satisfied with what I accomplished or should I change some elements?

What prevented me from performing my 3 most important tasks of the day?

What will happen if I do not apply what I just learned?

Answering these questions is important for building self-confidence, improving your productivity and making you feel more satisfied and fulfilled.

Operational tip: take a daily and weekly review of your to-do list

At the end of the day and week make a synthesis of:

  • actions that have brought you closer to your goals in order to make them more effective
  • what did not work well but which could work if you find a way to improve it
  • thoughts that triggered the emotions that keep you motivated and productive
  • unproductive thoughts that have negatively impacted your morale
  • tasks that you can eliminate, automate, or delegate to others

Then program and execute the actions that will allow you to further perfect your to-do list.

Doing this will allow you to turn your to-do list into a highly effective productivity and personal development tool.

Now that you have identified the actions to be taken to improve the effectiveness of your to-do list, you can move to the fifth tip on how to write an effective to-do list, namely, do not plan too many tasks.

5 – Do not plan too many tasks

Most people tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in a day.

As a result, people plan too many activities and experience great frustration because they cannot accomplish everything.

Day after day, this frustration can have a negative impact on self-esteem.

When this happens, it becomes difficult to focus on one’s learning and one tends to criticize oneself, to find faults and to question one’s abilities.

In case of doubt, it is better to plan a little less than expected and if necessary, use the time in excess for other important activities.

Set yourself 3 really important actions you want to-do and do your best to achieve them.

Foreseeing unplanned moments in the day is also important to better manage the inevitable unforeseen events we are all exposed to and over which we have very little control.

The tendency to plan too many tasks may be related to the difficulty of correctly estimating the time required to complete a given action. If you want to go deeper into this subject, I advise you to read the tip number 8 of the article 13 scientifically proven tips to become organized at work and more efficient.

But there may be other reasons, for example, perfectionism.

Operational tip: plan up to 3 major tasks in your day

Identify your top 3, namely, the 3 actions you absolutely need to do in the day.

Prioritize them and take action. Do not go to other tasks if you have not completed them.

If one of your top 3 requires more than half a day, plan and run it during the week.

If you find yourself prioritizing an action that is not in the top 3, refocus on these 3 actions. If this often happens, remember what motivates you to take these actions to strengthen your motivation and act at best.

If you notice that you tend to underestimate the time needed to complete your 3 most important tasks, give yourself more leeway and identify solutions to perform these tasks in less time.

Now that you have identified your top 3, you can go to the sixth tip on how to write an effective to-do list, namely, always plan breaks between tasks.

6 – Plan breaks between tasks

We are not productive all the time and most people are generally less productive after working for more than 45 minutes on a task requiring a lot of concentration.

Henning & al. (2010) show that frequent and short breaks have a positive impact on productivity and well-being.

In addition, Collewet & Sauermann (2017) show that people become less productive when the number of hours worked increases.

Remember that a to-do list should not only improve your productivity but also improve your well-being and reduce your stress.

If you do not manage your energies effectively, you risk personal or professional exhaustion.

These breaks are an opportunity to plan activities that you like to-do, such as calling friends, reading books, watching videos, playing sports, and so on.

Operational tip: program your breaks in your to-do list

After having programmed your 3 most important actions, program immediately after a long break of 20 or 30 minutes.

Use these breaks to refocus, regain your energies and also as a good reward for the efforts made.

During these breaks, you should not perform other tasks but you must completely disconnect from your to-do list by doing something nice.

The more you come to bring your attention to other things and the better your break will be.

Remember to schedule shorter breaks for all your other activities.

Now that you have programmed your breaks, you can go to the seventh tip on how to write an effective to-do list, namely, check if you have completed all your tasks.

7 – Check if you have completed all your tasks

At the end of each day and every week, it is important to take stock of the tasks you have written in your to-do list and the ones you have actually done.

This is essential if you want to turn your to-do list into an instrument of professional and personal success.

Here are some questions to evaluate this aspect.

What percentage of the scheduled tasks did I actually perform?

What can I do tomorrow to improve this score?

Why were some tasks not completed or partially completed?

Have I planned too many tasks?

Do I need to develop new skills?

Do I need to review my goals?

Do I need to check the consistency between my values ​​and my goals?

Do I need to strengthen my motivation?

Do I need to develop more vision on the medium and long terms?

What aspects of my to-do list do I need to improve?

Answering these questions will help you understand where you need to operate to improve your productivity.

Operational tip: improve your completion rate by 10%

Instead of wanting to change everything overnight, set yourself a clear and achievable goal to defeat procrastination and move right into action.

Identify the 5 most promising actions that will help you to improve the ratio between what you plan and what you achieve in your to-do list by at least 10%.

Prioritize actions in order of potential impact, plan them and take action.

Then measure the gap between your forecasts and the reality.

Repeat with other 5 actions and keep improving.

Now that you are aware of the gap between what you are planning and what you are doing and you have started to become more productive, you can go to the eighth tip on how to write an effective to-do list, namely, to eliminate useless tasks.

8 – Eliminate useless tasks

In a day there is never enough time to handle everything.

Instead of complaining about not having enough time to accomplish everything in your day, identify unnecessary tasks to free up time for those that will help you achieve your goals.

Take a few moments to write down everything that deprives you of the time and energy needed to carry out your most important projects.

It can be bad habits, bad associates, negative thoughts or even distractions that bring you nothing.

Choose at least one of these tasks and eliminate it this week. Then do the same for other tasks.

Operational tip: measure the duration of all your tasks during a week

This is a task that will take a little time but you will earn a lot more later.

Write down in your diary all the time you spend doing your important, urgent and unnecessary tasks.

At the end of each day, calculate the amount of time you have lost by taking care of unimportant tasks.

At the end of the week, write down the total time you were wasted at the expense of significant activities.

This figure represents the time you lose each week and you will continue to lose next week and the rest of your life if you do not change your habits.

What are you feeling now when you think about this?

Are you comfortable with this situation or do you want to change?

Now, calculate the time it would have taken to complete your important activities.

You will be surprised to notice that this time is less than or equal to the time you have lost by bringing your attention and energies to unproductive activities.

Now you know what you have to do.

You will see that by doing so you will have enough time to handle all the really important tasks in your to-do list.

Now that you are aware of the useless tasks you need to eliminate from your life, you can go to the ninth tip on how to write an effective to-do list, i.e., delegate tasks that can be done by other people.

9 – Delegate tasks that can be performed by others

Some people fail to delegate because of low self-esteem, which leads them to focus on the fear of failure.

Other people have no problem delegating but they do not take the time to choose the right person or provide the instructions before delegating.

You have every interest in delegating:

  • what you do not like doing
  • what others can do as well or better than you
  • wasting time on tasks that do not contribute to your success and well-being
  • actions that take too much time

One way to delegate your tasks is to get help from a virtual assistant or just by asking your family or friends.

Operational tip: begin to delegate at least one task this week

Make a list of tasks that you spend a lot of time on and away from completing your top 3 or that prevent you from spending time on activities that are important to your health and well-being.

Classify these tasks according to the time lost for each of them.

Take the one that makes you lose the most time and act right away to decide when to delegate and to whom.

Then delegate this task and calculate the amount of time you have earned each week. This is the time you have begun to reclaim to better live your life.

Now that you are aware of the importance of delegation, you can turn to tenth tip on how to write an effective to-do list, i.e., automating tasks that waste time and energy.

10 – Automate some tasks

Technology provides us with a variety of tools to automate many of our tasks. Here are some examples of what you can automate easily:

  • your payments and your savings
  • the management of your publications on social networks and for that I advise you Postcron
  • the backup of your computer

On the other hand, you cannot automate your decision to start automating.

Operational tip: start automating at least one of your tasks

Identify tasks that you can automate in your personal life or work.

Calculate how much time you can earn by getting rid of these activities and classify them according to the time you spend on them.

Then, plan in your to-do list when and how you will automate the tasks that will save you the most time.

Then, automate it and feel what you are experiencing by saving time for yourself.

Now that you have started to automate your tasks, you can turn to tip 11 on how to write an effective to-do list, namely, block time to solve your problems, improve your creativity and identify the habits that limit you.

11 – Block time to solve your problems, improve your creativity and identify the habits that limit you

In some cases, we may face challenges that require us to find new solutions, get out of our comfort zone and develop our creativity.

Relying solely on our rational mind may not be enough in the face of unexpected challenges that seem beyond our capabilities.

It then becomes essential to reconnect to the whole of our intelligence by taking advantage of the potential of our creative brain.

It is about taking time to connect with our true nature in order to perceive the meaning of life, which is important for us, the direction we want to give to our existence.

To do this is to take the time to disconnect from everyday actions to start being, perceiving and experiencing our lives in a more sustainable way.

In this way, we become able to have a new look at our actions and habits.

In this sense, Kets de Vries (2014) emphasizes that if we do not allow periods of uninterrupted, freely associative thoughts, personal growth, insight and creativity are less likely to emerge (Ghiselin, 1952, Arieti, 1976). Gardner 1994, Amabile 1996, Sternberg 1988, 1999, Runco 2007). If we never allow ourselves to be bored, we will never have periods of reflection that prepare creative processes.

Operational tip: set time to think, develop your creativity and solve your problems

Write a list of your biggest difficulties in your professional and personal life.

Prioritize these difficulties in order of importance by helping you with your scale of values.

Schedule in the week two appointments with yourself in order to:

  • observe and reflect on the evolution of your life
  • identify the changes you want to make
  • find solutions to start solving your current problems or to solve likely future problems
  • develop your creativity to fully utilize your potential and improve the quality of your life

If you take time to think and develop your imagination, you will not only be able to improve your productivity but also improve the quality of your life.

Final conclusion on how to do an effective to-do list

At the beginning of this article, you wanted to understand how to make an effective to-do list

During your reading, you have discovered 11 tips to get there.

In addition, for each of these 11 tips, I proposed an operational solution that you can implement now to improve your to-do list. Doing this will allow you to turn your to-do list into a tool for productivity and success.

Before you leave, I would like to ask you a question and ask you something.

First, I would like to know how, when, and where will you apply the advice you have just discovered.

Secondly, I ask you to share this article with your entourage because the information you have just discovered is able to have a positive impact on the lives of others who like you want to progress in their professional and personal life.

If you are interested in the topic of productivity, I invite you to discover all my articles on productivity.

If you are looking for tools to improve your time management skills, I recommend you read my article on the best time management apps.

If you want to learn how to manage your time, I invite you to find out more about our online time management course.

If you wish to benefit from personalized support to improve your efficiency, write to us via our contact form to enjoy a first free coaching session with a time management coach.

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