How can you make your to-do list work - really work - for you?
- List clear priorities and due dates. Your list should help you choose what highly-important tasks should be completed prior to less-important tasks.
- Divide large tasks or projects into small, manageable pieces. Put the smaller tasks on their own list. With a series of smaller tasks, you can make steady progress without feeling daunted or overwhelmed.
- Cross things off your list. When you’re finished with something, cross it off your list! This gives you a sense of accomplishment, and the momentum of completing tasks will help you remain productive. Heath & Heath (2010) cite a study that concludes "people find it more motivating to be partly finished with a longer journey than to be at the starting gate of a shorter one." Those smaller tasks are an important part of accomplishing your larger goals!
- Use small periods of time. All our schedules have small periods of time that open up. Instead of using that 10-30 minutes (or more) for browsing the internet or checking Facebook, consult your to-do list and see if you can get one or two of the smaller items done and crossed of your list.
- Plan ahead with efficiency in mind. As you decide where and when to accomplish your tasks, look for places to increase efficiency. Are two tasks near each other? Can you study flashcards while standing in line for football tickets or at the grocery store?
- Don’t worry if you don’t get everything done in the time you wanted to. Don't disregard those unfinished tasks; instead, evaluate them and plan to complete them. Remember that good schedules and lists are flexible and realistic. If you consistently need more time than you allotted for tasks, use that information to more accurately plan your next to-do list.
Want to learn more about prioritization, and how it goes hand-in-hand with list-making? Check this out, and then take a look at our quick to-do-list video. You can to-do this!