We are excited to have our first guest blogger Iman. She will be giving us advice on how to make our to-do list work for us. We hope Iman’s advice and her easy to follow steps will help you to become a more effective planner. These steps will definitely help you move forward in improving your planning skills.
Five ways to make your to-do list work for you
Lists. We all make them. Nearly every article that you come across about organization, tells you to make a list. What they don’t often tell you however, is how to make it work.
The single most important thing about making a list is to ensure that you do not forget what you need to do. The second most important is to ensure it gets done.
So how do you go from a piece of paper with hastily scribbled tasks to winning the get-it-all-done daily race?
- Write your list the night before
Do not write your list the morning of the day you need to carry out your tasks. If you’re anything like me, you need sleeping children and a quiet house, and a good ten minutes to brain dump everything at the end of a day onto a piece of paper that is on your desk, kitchen counter, fridge or wherever, first thing in the morning ready for you to tackle. On the days I try to scribble a list the day of, I always end up forgetting something or I write it down incorrectly. Which brings me to my next point …
- Less is more
If you only write a handful of things on your list that you know you can achieve, it will make for a far more productive day. Often we write task lists a mile long and then attempt – and fail – to complete them all and it puts us off trying again.
Be strategic – are you attempting to clear out the fridge? Going grocery shopping, reorganizing your cupboards, and deep cleaning your oven are probably not things you also want on your list for the same day. I’ve been de-cluttering the kitchen recently and I thought I’d try to get it done a different way than I usually do. When my youngest is asleep, I tackle one drawer or one cupboard. Just one. Even if I have an hour available, and the one drawer takes me 15 minutes, I stop there. That way, in a week or so, I have the entire kitchen de-cluttered and I haven’t turned the entire kitchen upside down and gotten really stressed and frustrated. Less is more. The mark of efficiency is how many things you’ve managed to tick off your list, but how many you’ve completed with a positive, well-balanced mind.
- Categorize your list
This is crucial. Say you have five things to do – not everything on the list is as important as the other. Categorize the list into sections by time, urgency and complexity. If there is a deadline that I need to meet for 12 pm that will take me an hour and requires concentration, that will be the first thing I do in the morning, not at 11 am. The key here is to recognize when your performance is at it’s best and then get the most important tasks done quickly and done well. I will also start with the task I am avoiding the most, to get it out of my system and off my list. I then feel really accomplished and having built that momentum, usually plough through the rest of my list.
You can also categorize your list by place for errands. So for instance, if I have to buy milk and the supermarket happens to be right next to the post office where I have a card I want to post – I know I can get two things checked off at the same time. It’s important to be incredibly efficient with time. Use it to your advantage. If you’re waiting to pick up a child from nursery and have a few minutes in the car, write an email, read five ayahs from the Quran, make a quick phone call. Every minute counts.
- Put your list where you can see it
Make it large, put it somewhere prominent and look at it all the time to remind you of the things you need to get done. So the next time you feel like you have plenty of time left in the day and sit down to check Facebook for the 546th time, you’ll remember that you don’t and that you really need to get a move on until your ‘work day’ is over.
- Set time limits and stick to them
If you have a timer on your desk that is counting down minutes and seconds and you can SEE your time passing you by, you are a lot more likely to be productive. Put a timer on and close all windows – email, social media, etc and get your task done.
The distractions set us back more than we realize. If you work from home or are a stay at home mum, make the time that your husband comes home, the end of your ‘work day.’ Think of it as a job where you need to get your tasks done by 6 pm and anything else will need to wait until tomorrow. This way you have important downtime with your children at the end of the day and once they are in bed, time for your husband and yourself.
Do you struggle to write an effective to-do list and get things done? If you do, I hope this has helped you! Try it the day after you read this and let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below! I’d love to hear from you!
Iman is a working mom of two, a wife and organizing junkie. She blogs over at And then she said (www.andthenshesaid.com), where she shares the beautiful, chaotic, ever-changing life journey that she’s on through her parenting experiences, reflections, organizing and creative projects, and lots of family friendly recipes.