We’ve all been there…you start your day strong with your planner open, fill it with a mile long list of tasks and then you come back to it at the end of the day with only one or two check marks! It’s a real thing and I promise it happens to all of us! Maybe you got served a wild curve ball that sent you completely off course, maybe you were over-ambitious (like when your eyes are bigger than your stomach!) or maybe you just got into a slump mid-day and were completely unmotivated by the tasks staring up at you. All of these things can absolutely put the brakes on checking off todo list items and can quickly have you asking why even attempt a todo list if it doesn’t help you work your way through your daily tasks?
My first piece of advice, is DON’T give up on your todo list! You just need to figure out how to make your todo list work for YOU rather than the other way around. Secondly: the first key component of a functional todo list is organization! No way around it. Now, I should admit that I was that weird kid who thought organizing was “fun” and would actually beg to organize my mom’s spice cabinet, voluntarily organize my room (over and over again), and I have always loved a good color coded anything! When you can organize things, especially your daily tasks, things become more clear, you can prepare and plan accordingly, you can be focused on one thing at a time and you can just enjoy what you’re doing in the moment. Organization removes the stress and chaos and allows you to do your best and be your best!
If you just found yourself thinking that all of this sounded good in theory but you still don’t know how you could actually maintain organization for day, let alone a week at a time, don’t worry! I have a few tips for you! Apply one of them for a few days or go for all five, customize them to work exactly as you need them to, and you will absolutely start to find a system that has you checking off those todo list items one by one!
These are my five tips for Rockin’ Your Daily Todo List:
- Find a Planner or Planning System: Let’s be honest, I might be a little biased because we actually create daily planners, but I’ve been using a planner since grade school! Not joking! My first one was from Tuckahoe Elementary School, had a laminated green construction paper cover and it never went untouched for more than a day. Maybe you aren’t a paper planner type of person; find an electronic planner/calendar/task manager that you like and will actually use. It might even be something as simple as a Todo List notepad but you need something that you can and will consistently come back to each day that is functional, accessible and useful! If it looks pretty but doesn’t function for you, ditch it and try something new!
- Brain Dump: Once you have your todo list catcher in place (i.e. your planner) it’s time to just brain dump everything that is floating around in your head. Write. It. Down! All those tasks, big and small, need to get out of your head and down on paper. At this point, don’t worry about the order of the tasks because you can never truly organize your todo’s without seeing it all. You’re bound to forget something and writing it down makes the planning process easier and completing it all doesn’t seem nearly as daunting.
- Prioritize: After you brain dump, your first reaction after looking at the list might be to freak out and abort! Hold on strong and stick with it! Your next step is to prioritize. You have to be honest with yourself and recognize that you’re not always going to get everything done when you want. Life can get in the way, things can take longer than expected, and there is the unavoidable fact that there is simply never enough time. To combat this, you just need to prioritize what is most important to you, what HAS to get done first, or what is someone else waiting on? You define your priorities and that will help you define the when and the how to get it all done. Big ticket items get put at the top and then put the tasks that could be done tomorrow (if necessary) at the bottom.
- Time Block Your Schedule: I don’t do this every single day, but when I am feeling like I am up against a mountain of todo’s, I turn to time blocking. Set a start and an end time for each task and work on each task completely uninterrupted. Maybe that means you turn your email off so you aren’t even tempted to click on the mailbox the minute it dings or maybe you put your phone in the other room so you don’t find yourself scrolling through Instagram (you know you do it…don’t worry, I do, too sometimes!). But you take each task and give it a home in your daily schedule. If it doesn’t get done within the allotted time, you move on. SO HARD to even think about doing let alone actually doing it but it is so helpful. You might find that you work more efficiently on each task because you know there is a stopping point and it also allows your mind to focus on one thing at a time. You don’t have to worry about what else has to get done, because you already have a plan in place. Now, unexpected occurrences might rock that plan, but you always have a home base, a pathway to come back to! We’ll talk more specifically about Time Blocking again soon!
- Color Code, Flag, Tape, etc.: I am a personal fan of color-coding my tasks by category: work, school, home, social and workouts. Colored pens are my best friends and it helps me clearly see what I have going on that day based simply on the colors that fill by todo list and schedule. There are lots of options for how you can code your different categories: find your favorite and run with it!
Take these tips and try them out tomorrow. Spend some time organizing the night before or first thing in the morning and just get to work! It might feel a little weird if you’re not used to organizing yourself like this and you might feel like some days you can’t afford a single distraction or curve ball. But no matter how many items on your todo list or how tight your schedule is, remember that it is always adaptable and so are you! If you go into every day with a plan and if you give your best effort to progress forward, even an inch (i.e. one task), give yourself credit for that!
For now, those are our tips for how to rock your daily todo list!