Hands up if you love a to-do list? Well, I’ll be honest, I do. I really, really do. Sometimes I even write something on my to-do list that I’ve already done, just for the simple satisfaction of being able to tick it off. It is super cathartic, trust me.

Although it might seem like an old-fashioned, or out-dated method of ensuring productivity, there is actually a lot of evidence out there to suggest that sticking to the good-old-fail-safe check-list is very good for us, and our work. One of the most powerful ways to reduce stress and dissipate that overwhelming feeling when you’re anxious about your work is to sit down with a pen and paper and list all of the things you need to get done.

However, just by writing a list of things down, does not necessarily mean that the work will actually get done, that is just the first step. So, to really benefit from the art of making a to-do list, here a few things you can try to ensure that you fly through your list at lightning speed so that you can really earn settling down to watch those back-to-back episodes on Netflix* you’ve been saving…

*disclaimer, other streaming sites are available, and are probably also being paid for by the same singular person in your friendship group.

1. Clarity

Be really clear about what it is that you need to do. Often people scribble things down like ‘call Sue’ or ‘research project’ which don’t really mean anything or give you a tangible set-task to begin with.

Try not to leave questions unanswered when writing your tasks for the day, what is it that you need to discuss with Sue specifically? And what exactly is the project or the element that requires your immediate attention? You might know what you need to do when you first write it down, but after a few unsolicited phone calls, a lukewarm coffee and half-listening to someone’s conversation about their cat wetting the bed, it can be easy to lose focus and forget what you originally set out to accomplish.

By being clear and concise from the get-go, you can save yourself a lot of time and help your brain to re-engage far more rapidly to the task in hand.

2. Don’t Date

I mean, really don’t date, it’s an absolute sh**t show out there. I jest I jest. But when it comes to writing out your tasks, try not to randomly assign dates to them, no matter how tempting it can be.

The reason? You’ll end up with a mountain of tasks to do in one day when they don’t all need to be done on that specific day. This will then make you feel even more disheartened when you are inevitably unable to finish them all.

Instead, be strategic with your to-do list and only put a date on a task if you intend to do it on that day. For example if you list 30 things to do and then have back to back meetings, you really are setting yourself up for a fail. So, spend a little time each week to plan out the week ahead based on your calendar in order to keep you to-list more effective.

3. Starter for 10

10 really is the magic number – in other words, do not list more than 10 items on your to-do list for 1 day. Even if you’re reading this and laughing ‘mwhahaha but how ridiculous, I am a super busy and very important person, I will need to do way more than 10 things today’ please shut up.

With all of the distractions, emergencies and interruptions that happen on a daily basis, you will not get 20 plus tasks completed in a single day, every day, no matter how large or small. And if you do? Well, good luck with that burn-out and straight jacket that are waiting for you.

Try and prioritise your top 10 tasks for the day, not only will this keep you focused on what’s important, but it also forces you to choose the tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your day – hallelujah!

4. Group & Motivate

If you have a lot of tasks that are similar, such as ‘call customers’, then group these together and make it a motivational process i.e. instead of writing ‘call x,y.z’ or ‘reply to every man and his dog’ flip-reverse the sentiment and write something like ‘get inbox to zero’ or ‘call my clients and make sure they are happy’ (ok, might be a stretch, but you see what I’m getting at).

In other words, write tasks so that they inspire an emotional response. Calling someone to ensure that things are positive is more motivating than simply just calling them because you have to, or because they’ve asked you to. Much like setting yourself the task to clear your inbox to zero adds a little more of an exciting challenge to your day rather than the usual dreary grind of working through a quagmire of emails with no end or beginning.

In conclusion, the to-do list is still King, when used correctly, and can be the motivation that inspires you to do your best work and achieve wonderful things. It can help to keep you focused when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and can give you purpose when you’re feeling uninspired. To-do lists hep to reduce stress and they allow your brain some respite from having to remember everything that you have to do, so use them wisely and treat them kindly, they really are your best chance at getting through a successful week.

Is developing your brand, website or marketing strategy on your to-do list? Get in touch with us today to discuss your next step, we’d love to hear from you!