How To Make An Efficient To-Do List

I’ve had the last two days off from work — a real treat after a crazy Fall season of working more than double the hours I’m contracted for (don’t worry, I get lieu time!) and driving as far afield as Windsor and Sudbury.

I definitely needed the time, as I had a to-do list as long as my arm: clean out my closet, select clothes to donate to my clothing swap, clean the house from top to bottom, groceries, job applications, conference calls (guess I wasn’t totally off work), BLOGGING, etc.

I’ve managed to cross almost everything off of my list, and I give the credit for that to my excellent to-do list skills. I thought I’d share them here using the remaining items on my to-do list for tonight!

How To Make An Efficient To-Do List

First you’ll need a place to write your to-do list. I like to use one document file for at least a month so I can plan ahead, move tasks around and look back on all the things I’ve accomplished. I always write out the date in full (day of the week + calendar date) — it often jogs my memory when I’ve forgotten that I agreed to do something on a certain day of the week but didn’t make note of the date or vice versa.

Here’s how that looks:

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.01.17 PM

When you look at the items on that list, you’ll notice that they’re all top-level tasks with multiple steps involved. That’s the next step in my list-making process: break down each item into a series of smaller tasks. Doing this allows you to get a better idea of how long each top-level task will take to complete, and also ensures that you don’t forget anything!

When you’re doing your breaking down, make sure that you’re getting down to the nitty-gritty — each item should be one small, achievable task.

Don’t worry about ordering those items just yet — if you’re anything like me, you’ll forget half of the steps you need to take because you’re too busy debating the order they should go in! Just get them all down for the time being.

Efficient To-Do List Tutorial 2

As you can see, I’ve made use of the Indent feature to add the smaller tasks to my top-level items, and I’ve bolded said items to make them stand out.

Now it’s time to put everything in order. Take a look at your smaller tasks and move them around as needed. For example, under Make Dinner I’m going to move “Take out dressing…” to the top of the list so that it’ll have time to warm up a bit before I use it. I’ll put “Heat up chicken…” next because that will also take a bit of them. Anyway, you get the idea. Here’s the reordered list:

In case you were wondering, I'm having leftover homemade Vietnamese food!
In case you were wondering, I’m having leftover homemade Vietnamese food!


And now it’s time to actually start doing the things on your to-do list! I like to cross them off as I go along as opposed to deleting them so that I can enjoy that lovely sense of accomplishment. Also, the slash feature is very satisfying when you’ve got particularly loathsome tasks on your list!

How To Make An Efficient To-Do List Tutorial 4

There’s an additional level of organization that you can add if you’re super-keen. Often those high-level tasks will have items that need to be done earlier in the day as well as items that will need to be done later. You can certainly move your items around once they’ve been broken down and ordered, but I personally like to keep them under their respective headers. I find it helpful to continually be glancing over my list in its entirety.

So that’s how I make to-do lists! I know it might seem like a really basic thing, but before I got into the habit of breaking my lists down in this way I had a lot of trouble making things happen.

I hope this has been helpful (and not condescending or ridiculous)! How do YOU organize your daily tasks? Let me know in the comments!

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