How to Use a To-Do List to Your Advantage

Simple Things That Will Improve Your Daily Effectiveness

To accomplish the things we want to daily, knowing how to use a To-Do list effectively can make a big difference.

If used correctly, a To-Do list can accelerate our progress towards our outcomes and boost our performance. The key is to use it in a way that will be complimentary to our working style.

Why a To-Do List May Not Work

A To-Do list may not work for some. Not everyone uses a To-Do and reasons may include:

  • Not having an effective system to integrate it into.
  • Using random or multiple lists without sticking to a single list.
  • Not having the discipline to use it the right way so it works for you.
  • Not forming the habit of using a list.
  • Believing a To-Do list will not help you and add more pressure or stress to your workday.
  • Not having your list with you all the time.
  • Finding it difficult to use it in a simple way.

Whether we use a To-Do list or not is not as important as having a method of keeping track of what needs to be done.

We won’t know how we’re progressing if we don’t have a way of tracking our priorities. Learning how to use a To-Do list the right way is a big advantage.

how to use a to-do list

How I Use a To-Do List

There are many techniques that can help us keep track of our tasks. The system I’ve created is simple and works well for me. I’ve adopted ideas from different methodologies and created one that works for me.

Every year, I start with the goals I would like to achieve. Those goals are broken down into 90-day projects, which I then use project management techniques to track.

Depending on my 90-day project, I will identify three big tasks I must complete every week. These are tasks that will move a 90-day project forward, which means I am moving a goal forward as well.

Most times, the three weekly tasks will have smaller tasks, also known as sub-tasks. I identify three daily priorities and how long I think they will take to complete. That ensures I accomplish my three big tasks by the end of the week.

Every day, I have three priorities and two or three other tasks not related to my 90-day project. This ensures I’m also doing other things that needs to be done.

In summary, my daily To-Do list has three priorities and two or three other tasks. If I complete my daily priorities, it means at the end of each week, I’ve completed fifteen important tasks that will help me get closer to completing my 90-day project, and eventually achieving my goal.

How to Use a To-Do List to Your Advantage

Here are five things to keep in mind when using a To-Do list. Applying these ideas will enable you to reap the benefits and improve your effectiveness.

  1. Keep it short. We want to set ourselves up for success, not for failure. Adding twenty tasks for a single day will create overwhelm. If we complete our tasks early, we can always add in more later.
  2. Use predefined categories. Things on our To-Do list should mean something and lead to a desired outcome. Adding random tasks may keep us busy, but it won’t help us achieve anything meaningful. Categories can be specific projects, goals or priorities.
  3. Add how long you think a task should take. Most times, how long a task takes to complete is more than what we expect. Adding how much time we need for each task will allow us to better plan our day. It also makes it easier to identify where we can move or add in tasks if needed.
  4. Set priorities. While this may be obvious, we have to know what our intentions are. What’s most important has to be our top priority every day. It’s also useful to know that not every task should be our top priority because we can only work on one thing at a time.
  5. Constantly review and adjust. If something is not working for us, we won’t know to change it if we don’t review regularly. This is a big reason why doing a weekly review is valuable. As we fine tune things, we’ll continue to improve our productivity and performance.

Final Thoughts

Using a To-Do list effectively will make a big difference in what and how much we accomplish. We have to find what works best for us. Most times, it will be through trial and error. There isn’t a system that works for everyone, 100% of the time.

How we feel at the end of each working day is just as important as how much we accomplish. A To-Do list helps us feel more organised because we’ll know what we want to get done and won’t forget things.

Action Step: If you are not using a To-Do list daily, experiment with using one for a few weeks. Notice what difference it makes to your daily productivity. If you are using a To-Do list daily, apply what you have learned to make it work better for you.

Question: What are other advantages of knowing how to use a To-Do list properly?