How To Create Simple, Better Daily To-Do Lists

Come on 'fess up.  Who's to-do list is a mile long?

What I want to share with you is how a better daily to-do list should help guide you towards your goals and not be a random list of must do’s.

Your daily to-do list has a significant purpose; to build your confidence as you see progress on what you want to achieve.

But let’s just take a step back a moment and look at goals.  Without a goal, we thrash about trying to find direction and usually fail.  Or we set ourselves goals we don’t achieve.

What we need is a better daily to-do list.  A list that will increase your chances of achieving your goals, but is super easy to manage.

I appreciate that goal setting can seem daunting, which is why most people never even bother. After all, what’s the use of a to-do list a mile long when you could just wade in and get things done?

The question is: do you genuinely get things done?

If you’re less than satisfied with how your day is going and go to bed at night wishing you’d been more productive, it’s time to hone in on your daily goals.

The good news? It’s relatively painless to set them. Even better? Once you get used to creating these little goals regularly, you’re going to find you have more hours in the day, not taking more time out. Intrigued? Let’s get started!

set yourself up for success with a better daily to-do list

A better to-do list is no more than 3 items

As Easy as 1 - 2 - 3

The problem with most to-do lists is they encourage you to crash and burn because we put too much on them. So often, we have a mix of big projects and quick actions.  Our to-do list then becomes an unwieldy mess. Although you have no chance of ever achieving everything, keeping up with a long list is exhausting and stressful.

What you need is a simple, better to-do list.  One which provides forward momentum but is not difficult to maintain.

The trick is to work on only three tasks or mini-goals every day.  Yep, that’s right, just three.

So take that big long list and lay it out in front of you.  

From your list, pick the tasks that make the most sense to you. If you have trouble deciding, It might help to make a master list for the week, marking next to each item these things:

  • Is this Urgent or Not Urgent
  • Is this Important or Not Important
  • Will this move me closer to achieving my goals?

The Fun Part - Analyse Your List

Now you’re going to do a little analysis.

If the item is:

  • NOT Urgent and NOT Important; it doesn’t even belong on your list. Drop it.
  • Urgent and NOT Important, maybe this isn’t your task. Delegate this.
  • NOT Urgent but Important; it can wait a little bit.
  • Urgent and Important, this is a task that needs immediate attention.

Welcome to the Eisenhower Matrix. This will save your life when deciding what should be a priority and what really isn’t. Your to-do list for today should have only your Urgent and Important things on it.  But remember, you are only going to select three things.

As you become better at planning and organising, you will experience a shift. You will spend less time doing the urgent and important and more time working on the not urgent but important.

But for now, let’s consider that your list is full of things that have serious implications if you don’t get things done.  So focus on them.

a handwritten to-do list

There is power in writing your to-do list by hand, it creates a stronger connection

The Power Of A Written Goal

Once you have your three daily tasks or goal for the day, put them where you can see them. I’m a great lover of the Bullet Journal, and I keep this to hand throughout the day to keep on track. So at the top of the page, I have my most important tasks of the day, and I work diligently down them.

When you write things down, nothing gets lost or forgotten! Amazingly, people who write down their goals are far more likely to reach them.

This makes a much better to-do list as it’s so simple to achieve.

A Better To-Do List Helps You Relax And Breathe

Quite frankly, there's enough stress in our daily lives, and the last thing you need is to add another one.

For most of us, our goals are not a life and death situation.  But we want to get things done so we can progress.  So, bear in mind that setting your daily three tasks is a guideline, not a law.  Be a little flexible with yourself if things come up.

Let’s face it, with the best plan in the world, there are always emergencies that crop up and interruptions to be dealt with.  After each interruption, go back to the task you were working on until it is completed.  You'll soon realise that having a limit of 3 items makes a better to-do lists

The secret is to start and finish a task before moving onto the next one.  It can be so tempting to pick little things to do in the belief you're making progress.  But don't be fooled, these tasks need to relate to your goals so they will be quite meaty.

That’s the beauty of a simple list of only three items.  You have more chance of being successful.

And, if you don't complete your three tasks, then these roll over to the next day, unless priorities change and you need to re-assess in which case you go back to setting the priorities again.

create a better daily to-do lists is better than the confusion of post-it notes

A written to-do list is better if in one contained place - let go of the post-it notes all over your desk!

Don’t Delay, Dig In

Don’t spend too long making your list perfect.  You will delay getting started with the work. After all, there comes a time when you just have to dig in.

I’m constantly reminded of a funny sketch in The Young Ones, a TV comedy from the 1980s.  The flatmates were all about to sit an exam.  Neil, the hippy, spent so long getting out all his mascots and setting up his desk correctly that by the time he picked up his pencil, the invigilator said time was up.

What I’m trying to say is don’t spend so much time preparing the perfect three items you forget that time is marching on.  The purpose is to get things done, no matter how imperfectly.

A Simple Process That Packs A Punch

A better to-do list really can be a relatively simple process once you work out what’s a priority and what isn’t. The nice thing? Once you get into the habit of setting your daily three, you’ll get more done, with seemingly minimal effort at all going into the process. That’s pretty great news, isn’t it?

Interested in other small habits that will enhance your to-do list and make a big impact?  Have a look at 3 Fascinating Ways Single-Tasking Is Better Than Multitasking

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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