Women at Work: How to Build a Better To-Do List
If you know me, you know that I'm extremely passionate about to-do lists. That may sound insane—"who is passionate about to-do lists?", you might ask yourself—but I am 100% that person.
I've never understood how people get anything done without them. Sure, I have a great memory too, but at a certain point you just have so many things going on, you need to write them all down and get organized.
Over the past decade or so I've been fine-tuning my own to-do list process, and I think I've finally found the one that works for me. Here are my tips on how to build a better to-do list:
- Find a system that works for you—and stick to it.
Some people are old-school, and like a planner system that they carry around with them everywhere they go. Others like to use apps (like To-Doist, Evernote, Asana, or plain and simple Notes), and some like Reminders or Calendars. All are great methods to organizing the madness—just find one that is visually appealing, organizes things the way you like them organized, and can go with you wherever you go.
I personally prefer a written planner, where I can see everything on my calendar, plus make to-do lists. My planner is kind of like my Grand Central Station. I've linked some of my favorites below!
- Work on a daily, weekly, and long-term basis.
This is where I think most people go wrong when it comes to to-do lists—they put everything in one long list, and then they don't know where to start. Instead of doing that (and making yourself feel incredibly overwhelmed), try to split things up. I try to make a to-do list at the beginning of each day of things that I HAVE to accomplish that day—i.e. they can't get pushed, or something will go wrong. Typically this is work tasks that NEED to be completed, blog posts or partnerships that HAVE to go live or that I'm on deadline for, or errands I have to accomplish today.
Then, I create a weekly to-do list of things that are on my mind for the week, and I typically do this Sunday night or Monday morning to start my week off on the right foot. My weekly to-do list often includes things like "book flights for ___", "send a birthday card to ___", or anything else that I can wait a few days to do, and get to as I have time.
My long-term to-do list is typically a monthly goal of something I either want to accomplish that month or something I know I need to do but know I won't get to this week. Bigger blog projects often fall into this category, as do projects at work that I know I should do eventually, but won't work their way into this week.
- Have different lists for different parts of your life.
I have 3 to-do lists—a personal list, a blog list, and a work list. Most people probably don't need 3, I just like to separate the categories of my life.
My personal to-do list includes things like errands, things I need to do around the house, presents I need to buy, flights I need to book, etc. This list I keep in a planner, organized alongside all of my personal calendar appointments.
My blog to-do list I organize in Asana. The reason I use this tool for my blog is that I can create different lists for different areas of my blog, but keep them all in the same tool. Plus, their apps for both my Mac and my phone are great, so I can take it with me everywhere I go. I have a "Blog To-Do" list in Asana, a "Blog Post Ideas" list, a "Partnerships" list, a "Dream Partners to Reach Out To" list, and then "Long-Term Goals" list.
At work, I organize my to-do list in a Google Doc. As projects come into my inbox or throughout the day, I jot them down in a Google Doc. Every night before I leave work, I spend 15 minutes organizing my to-do list in Google Docs for the next day, so that when I come into work I can hit the ground running. The reason I use Google Docs is because I love the Revision History feature. Every Friday, I go back through my Revision History and see all of the things I've checked off that week, and put them into a report for my manager so she knows what I'm working on, and what my priorities are for the next week.
How do you organize your to-do list? Do you have any tricks or tips? Let me know in the comments section!