:::talking in a National Geographic style documentary voice::: Ahhh, to-do lists. They are simply magnificent creatures aren't they? Efficient, helpful, majestic. The to-do list helps people all around the world to achieve their goals both big and small! Behold, a photo of the to-do list captured in the wild:
Hehehe. (Yes, I realize that I probably need help. But whatever, it's amusing dag nabbit!!!)
This probably doesn't come as a shock, but I LOVE to-do lists. Without my handy to-do list, I'd probably be wandering around aimlessly wasting tons of time while feeling completely overwhelmed! Did you know that it's been scientifically proven that the optimal amount of ideas to have floating around in your brain at one time for your brain to function at it's best is just three to four ideas?
Not ten, twenty or a billion ideas like most people have!
Yes, having a bagillion ideas floating around inside your brain is actually causing you to function worse. I attribute my frequent brain fart problem to this very thing: having too many ideas and tasks floating around inside my mind at once! Although my brain still farts every now and then, creating the ultimate to-do list has greatly helped me in creating valuable mind space while also helping me to achieve my goals (while retaining my sanity!)
Now, you might already make to-do lists for yourself to which I say, YAY!!! However, to-do lists are delicate creatures, and if they are not created properly then they can actually hinder you instead of help you! And that my friends, is sad.
And kind of defeats the purpose.
A well created to-do list should free your brain space while allowing you to quickly review everything that needs to get done and actually enables you to complete the tasks quickly. So if you DO already create to-do lists for yourself, ask yourself these questions! Does your current to-do list ...
- Accurately reflect your workday?
- Allow you to use every precious minute of your day to complete all of your work?
- Make it easy to actually spot, choose and complete a task or two in between events in your busy schedule so that you can really get shiz done?
- Actually reflect ALL of your tasks, commitments, projects and everything else that's floating around in your brain?
- Include tasks that are all relevant to your goals?
If you said "no" to any of these questions, then it's time for a to-do list overhaul, baby! Yes, we're going to create a master task list that will allow you to kick major butt and help you accomplish your goals! This will free up precious brain space AND it will allow you to see everything that needs to get done in one glance! Plus, it'll be a roadmap to achieving your goals. Sounds lovely doesn't it?
So. Set aside some time to go through these steps. They might take anywhere from an hour to several hours depending on how deep you go! But it will all be worth it. Make it fun. Put on your favorite music, grab your favorite beverage, get in some comfy clothes and let's get started!
1. Write out your goals.
If you don't currently have any specific goals written down, it's time to change that! Writing down your goals should be fun and inspiring! What do you want to accomplish in your personal life right now? What do you want to achieve in your work?
If you need help, check out this post on the Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting to get started! Don't forget to write down both personal and work-related goals. Oh!!! And if you want a colorful, quirky planner to write down your goals in, feel free to check out quirky and colorful planners that I created, they make goal setting extra fun!
(Yep, that's my planner in action!)
2. Do a massive brain dump.
Grab a piece of paper (or print off the silly worksheets that I created pictured below by clicking below) and spend anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours writing out everything you need to do, both personal and professional. The order that you write them down in doesn't matter here, just spew out every single thing that comes to mind when it actually comes to mind! You want to free your poor, cluttered brain from ALL of the crap floating around inside of it. Here's an example of the types of things that could be spewed out during a massive brain dump:
- Projects that need to get started
- Projects that have been started but still need to be completed
- Errands to run
- Home related stuff like maintenance, repairs and decorating
- Tasks like e-mail, social media and all of the voicemails that you've been ignoring
- Commitments to other people like clients, friends, prospects, significant others, family, etc.
- Personal events like birthdays, holidays, travel engagements etc.
- Research that needs to happen
There now, did that feel good? Did it feel good for your poor constipated brain to finally take a massive dump?
(Sorry that was really disgusting ... OMG I'm such a potty mouth!!!! Haaalp.)
But we're not finished dumping yet! Yes, it's time for round two.
3. Do a brain dump for your goals.
Remember those goals you wrote down in step one? This step is going to help you achieve them! Again, you simply want to empty your mind and gain focus by getting rid of all the goal-related clutter that's clogging your precious brain space! On a separate sheet of paper, for each goal write down everything that you need to do in order to achieve that goal. Add anything new to your massive brain dump list as well!
For example, if one of your goals is to spruce up your website, actionable steps would include things like:
- Get new bio photo
- Update side bar items
- Revise blog categories
- Add a footer
Get my drift? Easy! We're already moving onto step 3, so you should feel pretty accomplished at this point. In fact, go dance around like a crazy person for a minute ... I'll wait.
4. Create action steps for each item.
Many people confuse to-do's with projects. In your initial massive brain dump you may have written down something like, "start a blog" when in reality that particular item requires many "to-do's" all rolled into it! The problem here is that not only will you not truly know what you need to do in order to actually complete that task, but just looking at it will probably send you into overwhelm and you'll just continually keep skipping over it to avoid doing it.
To combat this problem like a super ninja, you need to go through all of the items on your brain dump and list out any action steps that are required to complete a particular task. So for example, if you wrote down "start a blog" on your list, actions steps might look something like:
- Choose your blog's name and purchase the domain
- Choose your host
- Choose your blogging platform
- Install a pretty theme
See? What used to be scary and overwhelming is now a series of small, manageable tasks that you can complete one small piece at a time! (And if you really DO want to start a blog, I wrote a juicy post about how to start a blog in one day right here!) So go on, get yet another sheet of paper and write down all of the action steps that you need to do for each item on your brain dump list!
By now your to-do list is probably a gigantic, cluttered mess that is sending you into panic-induced convulsions right? Fear not my darling, because NOW we're gonna take care of that mess so you can start kicking some major butt!
5. Sort and organize the shiz out of it.
Alright, you've got a massive amount of both personal and business tasks and actionable steps written down on your brain dump pages. It's a bit messy and confusing right? Well we're gonna fix that. Now you're gonna group all of your action steps in a way that will allow you to get tons of shiz done!!! Once finished you'll be able to quickly look at your list and see what you need to do based on how much time you have, your energy level, what's most urgent, etc. You can group your action steps many different ways. Like ...
- By due date
- By energy level (is it an action step that requires lots of brain power or something that you can easily do on auto pilot?)
- By the amount of time each action step will take
- By the resources you will need (computer, phone, books, etc.)
- By the place where you need to be in order to complete it (at home, on location, at the office, etc.)
Use whatever grouping idea appeals to you the most. Hell, you can even use more than one method for each action step! Organize and group them in a way that makes the most sense for you.
6. Choose a platform for your awesome master to-do list.
Alright, you've reached the final step!!!! Yessss you are SO CLOSE. Even though you've been brain dumping the heck out of pieces of paper, it's time to choose WHERE you will actually create your finalized, shiny new to-do list!
In this last step you're now going to choose a platform where you will input all of the lovely, organized, grouped action steps that you just wrote out above. If you're a planner (like me!) then you might like to use a tangible planner like the ones I've designed or a phone app like Wunderlist (where you can create an endless amount of to-do lists on your phone!)
Other ideas include:
- Post-it notes (if you like to arrange things!)
- A notebook (if you like to plan things!)
- Evernote (a contact management system app that allows you to scan info, create detailed profiles for all of your contacts, pull relevant information from e-mails, etc.)
- To Doist (Super nifty task management app that has tons of cool features and can be synced on all your devices!)
- Carrot (A funny to-do list app where you can earn points for completing tasks, receive praise for when you complete something and shame for when you don't!)
- A white board (If you want an open visual in your workspace!)
- Reminders App (Apple's powerful task management app that has location-based notification triggers so that you'll never drive by the store and forget to get toilet paper again!)
- View Your Mind (a super nifty mind mapping tool for Macs and PCs where you can generate colorful graphics and maps for your goals!)
Once you've chosen your preferred platform, it's time to write down or enter in all of those neatly grouped action steps.
What you have in front of you now is a super duper extensive to-do list that will allow you to focus and gets TONS OF SHIZ DONE!!!! How do you feel?
What about you, do you make to-do lists? What method of to-do listing helps you the most?
And now, it's time to stuff some chocolate into my pie hole.