Monday, November 19, 2012

How To Write An Effective To-Do List (And Actually Complete It!)

Hey y'all! What's happening on this amazing morning so far?

What? It's not amazing? It's not the most perfect morning you've ever had in your life?

Hah, don't worry, I've not gone insane. My mornings are a little nutso too. I hate waking up. My child doesn't even know what he wants. Worst of all, I have a to-do list a thousand miles long and no clue how to finish it. 

When I have my act together (or a few minutes of sane thinking), I follow these simple rules for organizing the day ahead and not going crazy:


Don't overbook yourself.

Seriously, this is my biggest mistake that I make over and over again. I put 25 things on my to-do list for the day, and then when I look at it at night I get grouchy because I've only crossed off 4 things. How do you stop this ridiculousness? Stop making the list so big! By setting the goals unrealistically, you kill your good mood and set yourself up to fail.

Look at your to do list you made for today. Seriously, look at it. Take out a new piece of paper (or whatever you do when you use a smart phone or tablet) and make at least 2 columns or separate lists. Write out what you absolutely have to do today on one list. Write everything else on the other (and be picky). Only look at the other list when the first is finished. The, voila! You've given yourself at least one to-do list that you can finish for sure.


Make an "already done" list.

I know this sounds silly. Why would you write down things you've already finished? And who says you've finished anything yet today?

Think about it a bit though: there really is nothing more motivating than having things already checked off your list, right? It's a happy feeling! I also promise you that you've gotten something done today already. Maybe you have been awesome and went for a run, showered, prayed, or got the mail today. Write it down and check that stuff off! If you have to, write down every little thing you did, no matter how mundane. You woke up, didn't you? Made it through the night alive? CHECK THAT OFF.

I woke up, and showered. Awesome accomplishment, self!


Delegate and delete.

Do you *really* need to sift through all of your spam email? Just take that off your list. Can your spouse or child unload the dishwasher instead of you? Delegate that. Can you negotiate with your roommate to consolidate chores? Do it. It's a great motto, really: Delegation + deletion = less stress almost every time.


Add silly stuff to the list when necessary.

I'm not kidding at all when I say that I do this. Let's say that it's evening, life is crazy, you feel beat and like you're not getting anything done. You need a quick motivator, something to get your mood up again.

This is what you do. You walk into a room. You look around and find something that needs done, and can be fixed in 30 seconds or less. Maybe you left your coffee cup on the end table. Maybe there's a book that should go on a shelf. Perhaps there is a little trash on the floor or somebody left the tv on. There are all kinds of things like this to look for, of course! Once you find your target, you do the task. Yay! You got something finished!

I found this cup that needed to be put away. Henry apparently needed to play with it first. 
Then, you do a little dance (10 seconds or less is ideal, lest somebody in your household catch you doing something so weird) and celebrate. If you have to, it's totally acceptable to tell yourself out loud that you're awesome.

I don't have a picture of me doing a dance because....uhhh.....I definitely am not that weird, mmmk?

There you have it! It is my sincere hope that by using these tips, you can get more stuff done, feel more accomplished, and get back to winning life, as you should be. 


  1. Hmm... I usually just try to write as reasonable a list as I can and just make myself get it done during the week. On the weekend, I try to tackle the things that always get put off, like replying to that long letter or sewing a button back on a shirt.
    I usually don't use tactics like you mention above. I find just putting the list beside somewhere I like to waste time--like taping it to my computer--will help me to remember to do everything on it.

  2. Hey Magdalen!

    Yeah I always assumed that's most people do, just keep the list handy and limit extra activities.

    I'm the type of person who is extremely distractable, but even more than that, if I don't get things done on the list by a certain point of the day, I despair and then give up. For some reason, starting the day with as small of a list as possible, breaking the list up into sublists, and adding already-finished tasks makes me feel happy and motivates me to finish the rest. I thought perhaps that there are people out there like me that could use my methods for themselves too. To each their own!

  3. Kendra, I love your to-do list ideas, especially # 2 and #4, making an already done and silly list. I love feeling like I accomplished something, even if it is just waking up and handing my daughter a chewy bar for breakfast ( I might be guilty of that). I could always use a little silly in my life to make my days seem more productive:) Thanks!

  4. I always like adding what I've already done to my lists so I have the satisfaction of checking it off and feeling like I accomplished something! I like the silly tip! :)

  5. I'm pretty sure under #4 that the dance thing may be the most important thing, whether on the list or not. No one dances enough, and even a few moments of moving with joy can brighten the rest of that whole long list :)