How to get on top of your to-do list

Remember when Inbox Zero was a thing? How we used to spend all of our time cleaning out our inboxes so we could see the shiny brilliant whiteness of its emptiness? What fools we were.

Inbox Infinity seems like the right title for what happens to most of us. And just like replying to every single email that comes in is counter-intuitive to clearing any emails, adding to our to-do lists is counter intuitive to actually being your most productive in the day.

Do you know what a long to-do list is going to do? Make you feel bad. It is going to make you aware of all those things that you’ve not done. All the pressing and urgent things to do. It is not going to help you get through your day’s work in any productive way, that’s for sure.

Do this one thing today: throw your to-do list out

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At the end of each day, get rid of your to-do list and start each day afresh.

Start each day by writing down the goal that you want to achieve that day. It could be getting that job done which you’ve put off for three weeks. It could be make a client happy by getting ahead on some of the things which are outstanding for them.

Don’t start the day with a big long list, start the day with one thing.

Then figure out what you need to get done today to meet all of your deadlines. It could be that you have 10 tasks that absolutely have to be done today. Does one need to be done this morning? Are you due to file a project before lunch? Make a note of the order in which you can do these. That’s your only to-do list today.

Multiple lists

Make use of projects rather than lists.

For each of my clients, I have a project board shared with them on my project management tool. We share comments and updates through there and I order according to urgency.

I have a separate list for my daily tasks. Things I need to check off each day for my own business.

Next, I use a bullet journal to write down the things I don’t want to forget, the opportunities that I want to follow up. These are long-term projects that need to brew a little. I keep this separate from my daily notebook where I make notes during meetings and jot down ideas.

Then I have my admin list. Things I need to get done for the home and family. Making doctors appointments, sending the kids to school with the right equipment and forms. That kind of thing. This stuff needs a different head on me to think about and I try roll this into my morning routine.

Rule of three

I have a rule for my to-do list: there must be no more than three things on there.

This way I don’t feel overwhelmed by the amount waiting for me to do and I can focus on the task that I’m working on right now.

At the end of the day, I chuck it out. If I need to do something before the end of the day, I’ll have done it. If not, then I can add it to tomorrow’s beautiful blank list.

It’s a bit like meeting Inbox Zero and Inbox Infinity halfway. In accepting there are many things to do, I’m not clearing them off but having it all sat in front of me each more, scribbles and all, is not helping productivity at all.

Project management tools

Project management tools like Asana and Trello are excellent at keeping your to-do list organised and in check. You need to invest some time in getting to know your way around them and inputting your activities into them but once you get into the habit of doing this, you’ll find your productivity levels increase and your list-stress decrease