Who among us doesn't love a to-do list? They hold us accountable by acting as reminders of our best intentions. And ticking things off is one of life's greatest small pleasures. Of course, to-do lists are only good and motivating if they are kept up-to-date and achievable. Otherwise, you risk missing important tasks or deadlines simply because they slipped your mind or the daunting never-ending list leaves you feeling demotivated or even shamed by your lack of progress. I have definitely been the victim of a list so long that I chose to ignore it entirely rather than action on even one of the items. But what's the alternative? I'm a little too forgetful to not have some kind of record and no one can be expected to remember it all. Thus, I've done the research and testing to find the most effective to-do list method. Fortunately for you, I will share that secret here and spare you some time.
Before I get into the details, I must give credit where credit is due. I stole the to-do-table method from Working Hard, Hardly Working: how to achieve more, stress less and feel fulfilled by Grace Beverly. Grace is the award-winning CEO and Founder of Tala, a sustainable activewear brand, and Shreddy, a FitTech company which provides workouts, meal plans and supplements. Grace started her entrepreneur-journey while studying at Oxford and sustaining a lucrative influencer career. The woman knows how to juggle things! I read her book in April 2020 and have been hooked on this list method since. Nothing beats it and it's super simple!
What's the secret? You make 3 lists!
So the logic behind the three list method is recognising time-on-task. Drafting a job application will take much more time than texting your Mum back. Updating your budget will probably take longer than writing a shopping list. And so on.
The issue with one long to-do list is that big and small tasks get thrown together and this can:
To cut through the noise, boost your productivity and (hopefully) calm your nerves, we break up the long list into three groups, namely:
- these tasks should take 5 minutes or less e.g. respond to texts and emails, book appointments
- larger yet still pretty manageable tasks. Ideally, they should take you 30 minutes max e.g. Edit cover letter, brainstorm for assignment or project
- these are long-term or ongoing activities which will require a lot of mental space or deep work, deserve breaks if you want to stay productive and can themselves be broken down into tasks e.g. final year dissertations, creating presentations
Now, you should have more clarity as to what needs to be done, how much time to allocate each tasks and can slot things in accordingly. Maybe you batch all the quick ticks together or spread them out in a couple of morning and afternoon slots. You can more intentionally allocate time to push on the projects which allow you to complete them in good time. And, hopefully, you feel more confident as you tick things off.
P.S. Just for fun, here is a YouTube video of Grace herself describing the method alongside other productivity tips!