When it comes to being productive we each have our own take on it. I have always wondered how other people put together their perfect to-do list. Some of us may use an app to stay on top of our appointments, commitments and to-dos.

Some of us use traditional paper and pen to note down everything we have to do. I am more of a traditional old-fashioned gal and love a handy planner and plenty of to-do lists and notepads. Others use digital planners which also works quite well!

For me, I need to see all of the things I need to do right in front of me. I need to be able to tick my tasks off otherwise I don’t feel like I have achieved anything. How do you like to plan? Are you an app or paper kind of person?

I’ve put together this blog post with my top 3 tips on creating that perfect to-do list. This obviously isn’t the whole picture and there are other steps I take but these 3 top tips definitely help me when my brain is on overload and I have a lot on at the same time.

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Tip 1 – The Brain dump

It is always important to start any planning with a brain dump. What is a brain dump I hear you ask? Well, this is where you sit down with a clean piece of paper (and yes I do recommend doing this the old fashioned way) and writing down EVERYTHING that is in your head.

This is a common method used for journaling. It really helps to clear your mind of all the clutter in your head and get it all down in front of you. This ensures that you cover everything and really dig deep.

If you skip the brain dump stage of planning, you can still put together a to-do list but it won’t be the perfect to-do list. The brain dump helps ensure you put everything down. And when jotting everything down in your notebook or on paper don’t think about it too much. Just write.

There are no rules here and no headings no titles. Just get it all down. We will be categorising and sorting through this list in the next step and it will definitely help to create that perfect to-do list.

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Tip 2 – The Categories

After we have done a good old brain dump on paper (I recommended doing it on paper as it will get messy) we need to go through each item on the brain dump to put together 4 to-do lists!

These lists will help us organise our minds into categories. These lists are the only ones you will ever need in your life as they cover pretty much everything. That’s not to say you cannot add in other areas that apply specifically to you but these are the general ones.

  • 1 – Family
  • 2 – Personal
  • 3 – Home
  • 4 – Work

The family list will include everything relating to your partner, children, holidays, trips, presents etc. Personal covers any to-dos that relate to you!!

Home includes anything for your home like shopping, meal plans, cleaning, organising, buying and so on.

Finally work is anything not related to the other three and includes anything you need to do relating to your job, business, career or even hobby.

You can of course create sub-categories if you need to make things more clear and simple. This can help stay even more organised as all of your tasks will have headings, for example, children’s appointments, shopping, doctors and cleaning.

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Tip 3 – The Maintenance

Now that we have done a brain dump and categorised all of the items into the 4 main areas of our life, we need to discuss how we can maintain these to-do lists. The first thing you will need to do is to review these 4 lists each month ticking off anything that has been done.

You will need to use these lists to create your weekly and daily lists. And the best way to stay productive each day and on top of your lists is to actually be realistic about what it is that you can achieve.

The number one mistake people make when trying to create the perfect to-do list is they become overly optimistic. Don’t try to plan to do more than you can actually handle. No busy mum or business owner can actually do a million things in one day.

Even if you can multi-task you will never get all of the tasks done well. All you end up doing is a little bit of each task and then get overwhelmed and do no more. The easiest way to ruin your productivity stream is by having too much on your plate.

Related PostThe ultimate guide to being more productive

Planning Day

Make Sunday evenings your “planning day”. Start your planning with a fresh look at the upcoming week by reviewing your to-do lists and picking a couple you will try to achieve that week (depending on what you can actually get done).

Here are a few pointers on what you can do to help you create that perfect weekly or daily to-do list:

  • Review your weekly to-do lists each evening (full lists should be reviewed and rewritten if needed each month)
  • Choose 3 main items from each of your 4 lists that you will realistically do the next day or that week
  • Attempt the most difficult/ mundane task first thing when you are most active and productive
  • Use a stopwatch and set a specific amount of time for each task
  • Check and answer emails once per day only
  • Reward yourself for each completed task
  • At the end of each day revisit your main 4 lists and update preparing the next days’ to-do list!
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To sum up

In order to put together the perfect to-do list allowing you to be as productive as possible during your busy day, we need to do the following:

  1. Brain dump all of your thoughts and worries
  2. Sort through the brain dump and categorise each item into 4 main areas of your life
  3. Use the 4 lists to curate your daily and weekly to-do list ensuring you revisit the lists and maintain them regularly

How do you put together your to-do list?

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Til next time