Getting through a to-do list can create headaches for many. Whether you are a mom of two, a new startup entrepreneur or a student, we all want to get through a list of things in a day. In fact, the more you move forward for growth, the more tasks keep adding on to your to-do list. The worst part is the tasks keep getting lined up, then they get pushed to the next day, and then by the end of the month, your tasks are clogged up which leave you overwhelmed. Such chaos eventually leads you to completely slide off the idea of making a to-do list. But I do not want you to give up on your to-do list, I want to give you some small steps which if implemented correctly will take you ahead of your to-do list. So let us begin ticking off everything from the to-do list.
- Be realistic
- Prioritise correctly
- Predict the duration for each task
- Keep similar tasks together
- Plan your day a night before
Be realistic –
Do not overwhelm yourself with a long list of things which are practically not possible. If you are somewhat similar to me, then there is a lot that you want to do which invites a tendency to try to fit the whole week into one day. I have done it and I am not really proud of it.
What can you do?
- Start small. Limit yourself to 4 tasks initially
- Have your day divided into 3-4 sectors. Like, study, personal, family etc. and then split your 4 tasks under each category. It will give you a clear picture.
- Overestimate the time you will take for 1 task. For instance, if you have a 1-hour lecture, consider that it will take 1.5 hours for you to get through it. There might be discussions between the lectures which can take time, you never know. You certainly don’t want to spend extra time shifting all your other tasks which are proceeded by that. Let us be smart.
- Overview of the whole week. It will give you an insight where you struggled completing the task, which tasks were shifted, and how you can possibly make changes to prevent the same mistakes again.
Prioritise correctly –
First things, first. You know it, right. It should be explicitly visible in your to-do list too. Also, promise yourself that you will truthfully prioritise tasks that need your attention instead of putting “playing PS” on the top of your list.
What can you do?
- Consider that there is only one thing that you will be able to do in a day, which task would that be? Now hold on to that thought, and put this task on top of the list. (under whichever category it belongs to)
- Being a morning person, I prefer to get the heavy/mundane tasks out of the way straight up. Depending on what time of the day you are the most productive or in the best mood, keep the heavy tasks for that time slot.
- If there is something on the list that will take less than 5 minutes, it is better to get done with it RIGHT NOW. Enjoy the pleasure of ticking off things in the list. wink
- After you have ensured the above three, arrange the list chronologically from morning till evening.
Predict the duration for each task –
This is very important to keep you attached to the real world. Remember, Parkinson’s Law? I really enjoy solving questions, but I do not enjoy reviewing questions. So, either I can spend 3 hours doing just questions or be realistic and give myself 1.5 hours on solving MCQs and 1.5 hours to review those. Makes sense?
What can you do?
- At the right margin of your to-do list, set time durations for each task. Remember you have to overestimate the time, life happens!
- Your to-do list should be accessible all the time. Either carry it with you or keep a digital version as well. I use the todoist app (free), which allows you to set time, categories, dates etc. I have also recently created a to-do list template on Notion which is even better. (more on that below)
- If there is anything that you could not complete on the list, highlight the task and note the possible reason that led to it towards the left margin. It will help when you overview the week to make changes.
Keep similar tasks together –
It will save you a lot of time. It might initially require conscious efforts, but once you see the outcomes, then there is no going back.
What can you do?
- Do tasks batching – For instance, if you are visiting a friend’s place, you can also practice physical examination with her for your upcoming test, while you are returning home you might like to pick up stationery on your way and as you are waiting at the billing section, you can catch up with family. You will get used to it slowly as you try to be mindful.
Plan your day a night before –
I can bet on how helpful this could be. You have your day already figured out, now you just have to start with baby steps to win the world. In my case, either I would have the tasks set the night before or the moment I am out of bed. I have been the guinea pig for you, I have seen disordered days when I don’t have the list set in advance. Believe me!
I have recently implemented the GTD system introduced by David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done“. I read the book, but I did not really understand how to put it into practice until I came across a video by Kharma Medic, which was linked to another video. Thus, with a chain of 2-3 videos, I finally figured out how to use Notion to create the highly efficient to-do list system. You can check out those videos on youtube. If you want me to write about the GTD system as well then I am your guest, please let me know.
After giving you a very well structured system to getting through your to-do list, I want you to know that we all have days that are not up to our expectations. This is life and let us not forget to enjoy it. Please do not beat yourself up if you were not able to tick off everything from your to-do list. We all are humans, and there is a learning curve to everything. Being said that, nobody who is giving you advice (including me) is perfect. We all fall, and we get up again. Experience and efforts are important. Enjoy!