Usually if you’re looking to improve your daily productivity, whether at work, in college or even on your days off, you’ll be given the advice to make a To-Do list.
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This is a very good piece of advice, but making a good list is a skill like any other and needs to be learned properly to have the most useful and productive effect. Below are some tips to write To-Do lists that will make work fly by and also ensure that you have all the time you need for yourself.
1. Schedule Your Week
Think of everything you need to do during the week and write it down in no particular order. Then, decide on which day you need to do what. The best practice is to plan unpleasant or time-consuming things early in the week. That way you’ll get them done early and they won’t weigh you down the rest of the week, spoiling your mood and motivation.
Also, think about how you like your week to go. You might find yourself the most alert on Tuesday and Wednesday, therefore will want to plan the most intensive tasks then, leaving the auto-pilot stuff for Friday when you’re winding down.
Working this way makes it easy to plan around your weekly activities, such as going to the gym or visiting a family member. A weekly schedule makes sure that everything is spread evenly and you won’t be overworked on one day while having have done nothing the day before.
2. Schedule Days
When you’re done with that, prioritize all your tasks day-by-day using grades A through F, with A being most important and F the least. This will give you a daily overview on what is vital and what can be moved to the next day, if necessary. Efficiency is about flow as much as planning, and sometimes you will find yourself in a position where tasks need to be moved for whatever reason.
Keep in mind, too, that you’re more productive during some parts of the day than others. Morning people will have more done than others will before noon but collapse after lunch.
You may be exactly the other way round, so plan tasks accordingly. Don’t write family emails before you’ve even had your morning coffee. Don’t plan a noon meeting with an important client if you prefer to work all night and go to sleep at 8 a.m. Stick to your rhythm and you’ll be a happier person all around.
3. All Work And No Play?
Thus far, we’ve mostly talked about work, duties and commitments, but how about fun? All work and no play, after all…
Your list should have plenty of room to plan your fun. Though it seems dull at first, you’ll quickly realize that planning your free time ahead of time makes it more enjoyable and less stressful.
So don’t be afraid to plan your downtime and give it its proper place in your list. Worst-case scenario is it will remind you every time you’re looking at it what you’re doing it for, helping your motivation and making you a happier person.
A quick note: As you’ve probably realized, all the rearranging of tasks and duties over several days gets very messy very quickly when using pen and paper. The best way to avoid this is to use an automated spreadsheet or scheduler. If you’re a bit of a hacker, you could even program the sheet in such a way it will rearrange tasks for you.
As an added bonus, the better you get at using the spreadsheet, the more time left over you’ll have for other things. Now that’s productive!