Amy Rose Gould

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How to write a to-do list you'll actually stick to

My to-do lists used to look a little something like this:

Amy Rose Gould - to do list

And you know what? I never got to cross anything off. In fact, I struggled to even get started on it, and there was a really simple reason for this. My tasks were too chunky. Too chunky and too meaty to face tackling. I could estimate how long a task would take (a day? A week?) and would be immediately put off starting it. Very counter-productive when the point of the list was to make me actually do things.

So after a lot of procrastinating and erratic to-doing, I worked out what needed to change.

The art of breaking things down

Whether you like to have an electronic or paper to-do list, it’s really satisfying crossing something off. I realised that my tasks were not only too daunting to start but it also became a bit demoralising when I felt like I had accomplished nothing at the end of the week, as I wasn’t able to cross anything off. Now I break down every single task into individual components. For example ‘publish blog post’ has become something like this:

  • Research blog topic

  • Write blog post

  • Create blog image

  • Upload blog on website

  • Schedule social media posts

As well as being too big to start, my first to-do’s also lacked detail. I didn’t have a clear structure so it wasn’t clear where I should begin. Now I find that I can draft out a vague plan for each task on my list, or use keywords that will trigger a certain train of thought. 

Save the big things for your plan

Tasks such as ‘build website’ and ‘find new clients’ may have the best of intentions, but perhaps they don’t belong on your weekly to-do list. Perhaps an obvious point, but I now put all my big ideas in my yearly plan. I then break the tasks down across the year using my monthly plan so it’s easy to see when I need to do things in order to hit my yearly target. I then finally break these down into weekly to-do’s. This way nothing gets missed off and there’s a clear path to the goal I had in mind.

Prioritise

It’s really easy to miss important tasks when they’re nestled in between the more benign ones. To help the biggies stand out I colour code mine using a key I created. Red is super important, orange the next level down etc etc.

You could also try adding a number or star to your important tasks if you wanted them to be accomplished on the same day, or place them all in order of importance. This one’s probably easier if you keep an electronic list as you may add to your list as the week goes by.

Deadlines

As well as colour coding my tasks I now also give each a deadline. Despite stress being one of the reasons I decided to leave my job, I still find I work quite well under pressure. It’s really easy to put things off if you only have a vague intention of when it’ll be completed, but if you set a deadline for your important tasks you’re much more likely to be able to achieve that coveted ‘cross-off’.

If you have any unique methods for sticking to your to-do list I’d love to hear from you!