You’d think that making a to-do list would be a straightforward notion, but I’ve learned over the years how to “hack” my list to make it more productive and rewarding. The biggest thing I learned was keep to-do lists short, but meaningful; here’s how I do that:
Rule # 1. Don’t put anything on the to do list that you can plainly be reminded of when you see it.
For example, I no longer put things like “Clean the living room” or “Do the dishes”, because I can plainly see it anyways, and it’s a task that’s impossible for me to ignore as well. Plus those tasks are usually self-reinforcing; I enjoy having a clean living room, so cleaning it is inherently motivating anyways. And tasks like that don’t need to go on a to-do list.
Rule #2. Where possible, move to-do list items to post-it notes in particular locations, instead of writing it into the list.
#3. Don’t put anything on the list that you only do at a specific time of day. Schedule it instead.
For example, I used to have “Do yoga” or “Workout” on my to-do list, until I realized I only ever did those things at very specific days and times. So I started scheduling it instead. (Btw, I’ve been finding theGoogle Calendar app’s goal functionality useful for this.)
#4. Offload recurring tasks to another list, to lighten up your mental real estate.
If you have recurring items on your to-do list, create a separate list and set reminders timers on them. For example, I have a biweekly reminder to transfer money to my savings account every time I get paid, and load of other recurring reminders. Instead of always seeing these items every week/month on my to-do list, I’ve thrown them all on a separate to-do list I never look at. Instead, I just rely on my phone to chime a reminder as needed.
#5. Don’t fall victim to the never ending to-do list.
Decide what you need to do that day and end the list there. Anything else you think of after, put it on a different list. Finishing everything on your list is rewarding, and will motivate you to attack tomorrow’s list.
#6. Declare to-do list bankruptcy.
Be honest with yourself. There’s some shit that just isn’t important enough yet. I had “Rain-x my windshields” and “Recycle batteries” on my to-do list for months, before I finally just deleted them. If you haven’t done it yet, it may not be important enough yet. One day it will be, and you’ll take care of it then. Until that day, that shit’s just busy work.
Do you have any to-do list rules? Let me know in the comments!