Productivity content remains highly requested on the blog, so here I am today, fulfilling your wishes. I plan to do a range of posts discussing all different aspects of this topic in detail. For now though, we’ll start simple! Let’s talk about the good old to do-list and how we can best utilise this organisational tool to further ourselves, our work and smash those goals out of the park!
I’d also like to mention that this post is in collaboration with the talented Sophie from Sophie’s corner. She runs a productivity and positivity blog and is a good friend of mine. It’d mean a lot if you could support her as you do me!
I am not yet somebody who is a die hard to do lister, but I recognise and can appreciate the great ways in which I benefit when I take the time to put together a list. Ultimately, it’s a few minutes out of my day to maximise my focus and get set on the way to achieving anything and everything I put my mind to.
As I’ve realised though, to do lists are not created equal!
There is a certain technique, an art even, to crafting one that is just right for you. This takes in account length of tasks, layout/setup of your list and so much more that you might not have considered. As with anything that is to be mastered, consistency is key. Write out a to-do list everyday until it becomes a task of habit. This takes the chore out of doing so!
Decorate your to- do lists
Many people, understandably, prioritise the functionality of a list over how much it can be prettified. Why spend time decorating a list only to need a new one tomorrow or to have it take so long it deserves a place on said list?
As an aspiring designer and creative, I love visuals and find myself engaging through them just as much as I would words. It’s easy to throw together list in a matter of minutes but to be able to do more with it than just check off boxes is nice. As a plus, decorated lists always make me feel that bit more productive. Beyond that, I want to check them!
Share your lists online
This is a key tip for getting the most out of your time and being able to start afresh with new tasks the next day. This method works well as it serves to encourage others to use their time and resources better and to a degree, holds you accountable. Maybe you have a sort of checkpoint where you upload the same to do list online, except, hopefully, having worked through most or all tasks you’d written down.
Be as specific as possible
Now, as I’ve just mentioned, this is not the time to be vague, even if just with yourself. In order to get things done, you need to know a couple of things- the who, what, when and where are important. Make sure your goals are actionable and aren’t so big you find them unachievable. What it really comes down to is being clear about your intentions so you can help yourself and enlist others to as well.
Don’t be afraid to tell people exactly what it is that you want, precisely what it will mean to you to have it and specifically why you want to do what you want to do. When you have that level of specificity, you will have confidence and conviction. These are two of the most important skills to have on your journey towards your dream. Talk to yourself just as you would others. Hash out the details and commit to smaller goals that will lead up to something bigger.
Decide whether you prefer a paper or online list
Are you an old schooler who prefers tangible, handwritten lists over what can be created online? I’d say there are points towards both!
Writing out lists and doing everyday things on paper as opposed to on your phone or laptop improves your writing proficiency, speed and may even help you to write neater.
Recently though I’ve taken to using an app to create my lists. This way I don’t have to worry about it getting lost or dirty. There’s also plenty of space so I can continue writing without having to take a new page.
Download an app to create your to do lists- I use minimalist
Minimalist is an absolute gamechanger for online to do lists. As mentioned above, I use an app to create mine and minimalist is it. While you could just as easily go to the notes section in your phone, this app has some nifty extra features that make all the difference. For mac users, cloud syncing is available, meaning you can collaborate on lists and share to multiple devices. You can set reminders and timers manually, if needed, or the app will simply detect time/date stamps within your writing. There are location reminders, a dark theme instead of the usual white. My favourite feature however is the pomodoro timer which also plays various songs. The pomodoro method is known as a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they’ve got, rather than agaisnt it. In this way, your workload is broken down into multiple twenty five minute chunks and separated by five minute breaks- intervals are known as pomodoros. Eventually, after four repititions, you have earned yourself a longer break of fifteen to twenty minutes.
Do you like your lists to be written and included as part of a planner, bujo or journal spread?
Another place I create to do lists, record events and make note of deadlines is in my planner. Occasionally it is helpful to bring out my calendar when I’ve got brand work to do or assignments to finish off. These are must do tasks and I can’t afford to miss them!
I use the Frankie annual calendar and journal, both of which include monthly spreads and plenty of room to take notes. They are always beautifully designed, featuring work and prints from local and international artists alike. This year’s journal theme was decided on and created in partnership with aboriginal artists. A wonderful cause to support! I love paper goodies as well.
Create daily to do lists as well as a section for short term (weekly) and long term (monthly) goals
This is not something I always do, but it helps to break tasks down and offer a differentiation between what is a short term and a long term goal. It is disheartening to have a never ending list that spans over multiple days, yet you see no progress on. Similarly, you don’t want to fill up your weekly or daily to do list with inevitable tasks such as making your bed or cooking dinner.
It’s easy to get frustrated early on when you’re trying to make headway on your goals. Most of us start off feeling confident and ambitious but this feeling can wane over time. This is a recipe for defeatism. It is indeed easy to give up, but when you stick things out the real magical happens. Avoiding defeatism requires a system for patiently breaking down all you need or want to do in daily, weekly and monthly tasks. It is your opportunity to set out a plan for the forseeable future.
Long term goals can fall into any category, but you’ll know they’re right for you when you are uncomfortable, scared even, at the thought of them. They need to be big enough, but worth your effort in tackling them.
Set smart goals- be realistic about how much and what you can do
Goal setting allows you to take control of your life’s direction. Suddenly, you are no longer just a passenger in your journey. You’re in the driver’s seat. You are provided a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding.
Set goals that motivate and are important to you. There should be value or gain in you achieving them. If you have little to no interest in the outcome of your goal or are working on skills that you won’t take into the future, rethink. The exception to this rule is of course school and job requirements. In some cases, there is no getting around what you have to do.
They key is just to have a healthy sense of urgency and maintain and must do attitude. Set goals you are unlikely to want to put off. Above all, just stay true to yourself and know what matters.
Brain dump, then categorise your thoughts into neat little sections.
Believe it or not, you can braindump thoughts in such a way that you end up with a clearer and sharper mind.
Our brains are not meant to hold every thought we’ve had or remember all information. Create headings for must do’s, perhaps tasks, and things lower down on your priority list that you’ll get around to eventually. Write and continue to do so. Don’t even concern yourself with what it is you’re writing as the time to scrutinise and cross off will come later.
You’ll find that along the way, some of your want to do’s find their way to top of your schedule. They become musts and therefore crucial to you. Maybe there are other tasks that fall in priority. Schedule and order accordingly. When you feel you are ready, be ruthless.
If you feel overwhelmed or like your life is out of balance, take this time to reorder. Your thoughts, feelings and goals will increase in clarity through this exercise.