How to write the ultimate to do list

I’m always looking for ways to write the ultimate to do list and be more organised.

Lately, I’ve felt that my way of working is inefficient. Last week was stress-ville-Arizona, I had a lot of plates spinning and my health was the one that I smashed. I lost a lot of sleep, lost track of my meals (and ate all the time instead) and despite squeezing in a few workouts I felt so lethargic.

Even in lockdown with less commitments (theoretically) I still sometimes feel as though I’m not on top of everything. But also perhaps, we’re never are, as more things are just added to the list. It’s never-ending, or so it feels sometimes.

I asked for your advice for writing a good and realistic to do list as I’m guilty of assigning far too many tasks to each day. The responses were brilliant!

At the beginning of lockdown I was focusing on 6 tasks per day maximum, but as I’ve been working towards several different goals at once that has gradually ramped up and out of control to 20+ things to do a day. 

The things is, even small tasks like responding to emails, can take quite a bit of time if they require reading additional attachments, sending edits or creating something for someone. Or maybe you’ve had a few days off? Then you’ve got three times the amount of emails to respond to than normal. So what was a small task is actually quite a hefty one.


Create the mother list 

That’s right it’s time to create the mother of all lists. This bad boy includes every teeny tiny thing that you need to do. Return parcels to the Post office, add it. Buy more chocolate to replace the chocolate I ate, add it. It could be something that’s an immediate task or a more long-term project, whatever it is, get it out of your head and onto paper. Mine is currently three pages long… 

Break it down:

Breaking a to do list down into chunks is essential. There are many different ways to do this:

Weekly to daily lists:

Write a weekly to do list with 25-30 tasks for the week and then assign each task to a particular day (Monday-Friday). You can even set aside the amount of time for the task and a due date. 

Don’t set yourself any major tasks for the weekend. I can’t stay away from my emails or my blog (usually) on the weekend, but try to schedule time to relax too. 

Monthly to daily lists:

Another way to break down the mother list is to split it into a monthly tasks first, before splitting it down to the week and then the day. This is great for ongoing projects that require several weeks to finish. 

Long-term and short-term goals/tasks:

You could also split the mother list into long-term tasks (those big old projects) and short-term tasks (returning clothes, emails, groceries). It might be that you have 15 long-term and 80 short-term tasks, but as long as you set deadlines and refer back to the list you can stay on track. 

Eisenhower Matrix:

I hadn’t heard of this method before, thank you Abi for introducing me to it! The Eisnehower Matrix splits tasks into four sections:

  • Urgent: these are the immediate/necessary tasks 
  • Schedule: these tasks are important so you need to schedule out time for them, but you don’t need to do them this instance. 
  • Delegate: tasks that you can send onto other people, which could be the grocery shopping to save you some time for your urgent tasks today, or the dog walk. 
  • Delete: don’t need it, isn’t important, maybe you only put it on the list as you saw someone else do it and felt bad? Yeah, get it off your list. 

You need to figure out which of these ways of breaking down your tasks works for you to write your ultimate to do list.

Prioritise tasks: 

Must do, should do, could do, cba to do:

I personally love this approach! So split the list into the following categories: 

Must do: These are the essential things on the list that you cannot avoid even if you’d like to. 

Should do: These tasks aren’t necessary but would benefit you or you are responsible for completing but it could be pushed back a day or two.

Could do: If I have time I’d like to do…

CBA to do: It’s on my list, but I don’t want to do it and I don’t need to do it so I won’t do it. This is where to discard of all the things on your list that you wrote down but you really don’t need to do.

1-3-5 method

In this method you prioritise 1 large task, 3 medium tasks and 5 small tasks. Take them from your long list and assign them to a particular time frame, perhaps a week or ten days or just one day. 

General good to do list practices:

  • Start with the big tasks. Yes it might feel great to tick three small tasks on the list, but by avoiding the more challenging or time consuming task you have less energy or drive to complete it later. 
  • If you don’t complete your tasks do not beat yourself up. Reassign the task to the next day or a quieter day in the week. 
  • Refer back to the mother list and keep adding to it. 
  • Don’t procrastinate. We all love a bit of useful stationary, but try and stick to 1-2 maximum places to write your to do lists. Otherwise you may forget which notebook your current list is in and miss something vital – I’m definitely guilty of this!

Ideal stationary for your ultimate to do lists:

How would you write the ultimate to do list?

how to write the ultimate to do list

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  • Hannah says:

    I used to love writing to-do lists whilst at University – there is something so satisfying about crossing an item off your list, even if it is something as small as making your bed! I think the must, should, could, cba method is my personal favourite. xx

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