To do or not to do

To Do lists may seem outdated, but they are still one of the best productivity methods around.

Whether you use pen and paper (which is perfectly fine) or an app like Wunderlist or Evernote, it’s up to you. Many use their phone or create a personal bullet journal. The format for your To Do list is not what’s important.

The benefit of a to do list lies in the process of capturing, clarifying, organizing, and completing your tasks, it helps you clear your mind and provide focus. This process can be broken down into 5 steps:

  • Capture all your ideas and tasks. Put them into a notebook, Word doc, your phone or planner. Whatever works for you.
  • Break each task down into actionable steps. For example, if your task is “write blog post” then segment that into: – Set due date – Decide topic – Do research – Write outline – Write blog post By breaking down each task into smaller steps, it’s much easier to make progress each hour (or day) until you finish the entire task.
  • Set reminders to yourself to complete certain steps, or follow up with other people. Set deadlines if it helps.
  • Get to work, and start crossing items off your list. Oh and always start with the higher priority items first.
  • Write tomorrow’s To Do list the day before. That way, you have an accurate and updated To Do list every morning.

Beyond the obvious benefit of organizing your tasks into actionable steps that are easy to finish, there is another huge benefit here. Since your brain can only handle so much information at one time, simple tasks like “Call Mom” or “Go the bank” take up valuable mental space. By writing everything down, you free up mental real estate and can think more clearly. This reduces stress and allows you to think more creatively about your business and life.

But a word of caution. Remember to keep to do lists short. Too many people fail because their list become pages and pages and pages of things to do. So prioritise. What really needs to be done today, this week or this month? What are real tasks rather than aspirations?