Using “to-do lists” has several advantages as a time-management technique. To-do lists in any format help you organize your priorities, enhance your productivity, and keep you on track. You are less likely to miss appointments, forget important tasks, or let small tasks slip through the cracks if you have a detailed to-do list.
A good to-do list can help you in a number of ways:
- Plan for a variety of tasks, both academic and personal. Be sure to include academic tasks like attending class and studying, but also include personal tasks like laundry or grocery shopping.
- Maintain realistic goals. If your to-do list is realistic, you can stay on track with your commitments. If you plan too much, you may feel overwhelmed and spend time procrastinating instead of accomplishing your goals.
- Track your priorities. Steven Covey (known for his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) argues that we should organize our time around our personal priorities. As you consider how to organize your own to-do list, think about the urgency and importance of each item you are considering listing. Items that have significant importance or which are close to the due date should be considered top priorities. Ask yourself, "What other criteria will I use to evaluate what is a top priority or not? How will I distinguish between top priorities and other items on my list?" By using a specific system (e.g., listing top priorities first or putting a symbol next to them) to establish and illustrate priorities, you can focus your attention and time on what matters most to you.
There are many ways to create a to-do list. Like a schedule, your to-do list should be accessible to you. A planner or a phone app often work well for students. Other systems might include a whiteboard or a series of sticky notes. The most important thing is finding a system that works effectively for you and that you can stick to throughout the term.