To-do lists. These lists are usually a complete mess with nothing to tie them together. Because of this chaos, the items on these lists are likely not getting done!
So, if you’re here, you’re looking to organize your to-do list for optimal productivity. Well lucky for you I am a to-do list guru that loves all things “organization” and am more than happy to help! In this post I will walk you through how to organize your to-do list for a more productive day, week and life!
Starting + Tools You’ll Need to Organize Your To-Do List
You’ll need some tools before starting off your super organized to-do list! If you prefer to use your phone you can use the notes, lists or reminders app on there. For people like me that prefer to write everything down, I recommend a mini binder. I use the 5.5×8.5 size to keep my life as organized as possible. If you prefer an actual planner I 100% recommend Franklin Covey planners for their durability and functionality. Their daily planner refill is perfect and has a to-do list bar with two pages for every day! So – plenty of writing room for those complex days. This is what I use to successfully plan out my day.
When you’re ready to start, begin jotting down everything you need to do in all categories of your life. This includes home cleaning, work to-dos, homework and personal to-dos. If you can’t think of a lot of things, don’t worry! This is just a rough draft and once you begin categorizing these your brain will come up with more items. Also, don’t be overwhelmed if it’s a long list that feels impossible to complete. I promise that if you follow this guide on how to organize your to-do list, you’ll check off each one!
Can’t we just write them all down and be done with it?
Writing your items down without organizing your to-do list is not as effective as categorizing and prioritizing each item. At most you’ll have a jumbled list of to-dos. Without the organization we’ll go through in this post, the likelihood of you completing each to-do item is slim. Therefore, I’m a big advocate of simplifying your life as much as possible. Organization is the key to that!
Organizing Each To-Do Item into a Category
After you’ve written down your to-do list, begin categorizing each item. I recommend using broader categories to quickly input your to-dos.
If you have more main categories, make sure each to-do list item is placed under those. Have fun with this! Use different colored pens for each category so that when you begin writing down your to-do list for the day, you know which category it belongs to.
You should have a good number of tasks that have probably been left pending for a while. So, don’t freak out if you have a lot of to-dos. For the first couple of days, it’s good to have a long list so you can focus on items that have been placed on the back burner.
As you complete these tasks, your daily to-do list will shorten. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this point, just know that you can divide these tasks into a couple of days! After the first week or so your to-do list should shorten!
Organizing Your To-Do List According to –
Since you’re just starting your fresh to-do list, there might be some items that are due soon for work or school. Hash out these items first since they have a definite due date.
School Projects and Essays
For future items that are due at a later time, begin breaking down these assignments into chunks. This works best with major work or school projects/papers. For example, if you have a 5k word essay due in a month, you can begin writing 250 words every day so you can have this essay completed in 20 days! Though it might be a slow process, you’re getting little bits and pieces done. When the due date nears, you aren’t staying up until the crack of dawn completing your essay! Most importantly, when you write 250 words a day, they’re easier to edit or proofread than 5,000 at one go! Breaking this down will result in higher quality work versus work done that same day. Also, getting the essay done earlier means you can ask your professor for any needed improvements or have it looked through by others.
For work deadlines, determine the due date for your project, document or item. Then, work backwards to determine your daily to-dos. For example, if there’s a legal document that needs approval or revision, begin determining how many days each one will take and whether it needs a stamp of approval. By working on this piece by piece, you’ll have a near perfect document that doesn’t look rushed!
*If due dates don’t apply to you then you’ll want to organize your to do list by:
Begin organizing your items according to priority.
High priority items should be completed first. The reason why you do the hardest and high-priority items first is because you can build momentum by completing a difficult task. After doing those harder tasks, the easier tasks will seem even easier to complete! Essentially, you’re getting rid of the big rocks first and then focusing on the smaller ones.
You might only be able to do one or two items in a day and that’s perfectly okay! These items will have the most priority so you can relax and know that your top couple of items are done. If you don’t have time to complete the rest of the to-dos, save them for the next day! Your to-do list will most likely grow but will stabilize once you’ve refined and finalized it.
For prioritized items, it’s important to break them down piece by piece. A project due a month from now may not have a high priority today. But, as the date nears to turn it in, the priority shifts to HIGH priority. It’s best to avoid waiting last minute because the quality of work will not be as great had you started today! So, for this project, start with little pieces every day.
If you’re interested in watching a helpful TED Talks regarding procrastination, click here. I found this video funny but useful in realizing why procrastination is a bad way to manage your tasks.
And! If you want an example of this organization method, feel free to print out the free PDF printable below:
Organizing Your Due-Date and Prioritized Tasks
Now that your to-dos are organized and prioritized, can you get these all done in one day? It’s likely you’ll need a couple of days to complete the entire list. Schedule out the next couple of days or the week to complete all of these to-dos. This can be done by breaking each one down into smaller bits or doing the entire thing in one go!
For example, if “clean restroom” is high on your priority list, you can choose to do it all in one day or break it down. An example of how you could break it down would be
Day 1 – Clean shower
Day 2 – Clean toilet
Day 3 – Clean Floors and Mirrors
Day 4 – Clean cabinets and so on and so forth. I highly recommend breaking tasks into chunks whenever possible!
Moving Forward to a More Organized You!
Let’s get things done today! With a plan, anything is possible. If writing things down in a planner isn’t working out for you – try something new! Maybe you’d prefer everything written down on a white board? Or maybe you can try out Mika Perry’s method of using post-its in an environmentally friendly way -check that out here. Her method looks really cool and can be a useful way for you to complete your to-dos.