Best To-Do Lists Ever

If you’re tired of always losing those endless scraps of paper you used to scribble daily to-do lists, if you’re eager to find some other way to keep track of things you want or need to do, and if you’re willing to set aside preconceived notions, maybe you’ll find something useful in this snapshot of some of the best to-do lists ever.

Why Bother With Lists at All?

Perhaps the first and most obvious question is, why bother with making lists at all? After all, aren’t you intelligent and feel that you can juggle all sorts of things in your head — without having to jot them all down? Many of us are really good at parceling out our time, managing to eke out just enough to do everything or almost everything we need to on a daily basis. For others, this is often not the case. It’s just too easy to get caught up in whatever it is — finishing a report for the boss, making sure the kids’ laundry is done and dinner gets made, using an app to find a support meeting — and a lot of things just slide. When life gets hectic — and we’ve all been there — lists can be a virtual lifesaver. We not only seem like we’re more on top of things than we’d otherwise be, we actually are more efficient and productive. It’s only fair to use whatever means we have at our disposal to make life simpler and less stressful.

Why Are Some Lists Better Than Others?

Do you ever look at your to-do list and feel a knot growing in your stomach? This is the kind of list that you hate to dig out for the simple reason that there are too many items on there that you’d really rather not do. They may be time-sucking chores or the need to deal with an unpleasant, awkward, or messy situation or problem that you feel ill-prepared for and really dread getting started on. On the other hand, there are lists of activities and pursuits that you can’t wait to get involved in. They’re what drive you, excite you, jumpstart your motivation, and keep you determined to keep going. Hallelujah! You’ve figured out why some lists are better than others. Now comes the question, how to create some of the best to-do lists ever. Here are some suggestions.

The “Fun” List of Things You Really Want to Do

Who’s to say you can’t have a list that’s devoted strictly to all the fun activities and pursuits you really want to do? In fact, this is an excellent suggestion for any number of reasons, but we’ll cite two here. First, this is the kind of list that can serve to motivate and inspire you — particularly useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed, a little blue, or like you just don’t have time for yourself. The mere act of reviewing the fun list can bring a smile to your face and help jumpstart your planning to allocate some time in your busy schedule for doing what you want. Second, it’s therapeutic to dream of activities and pursuits that energize and calm you at the same time. You tend to get excited thinking about hiking the trail at Machu Picchu, or taking the creative cooking class in Paris, or relaxing with the family at a beachfront rental property, or…(you fill in the blank). The point is that having a fun list of things you really want to do isn’t onerous at all. It’s a real mind-booster and can lead to actually getting started on these wonderful activities and pursuits.

The Priorities-Based List

With so many items competing for your attention, it can be hard to figure out which ones to tackle first. Here’s where the priorities-based list comes in more than handy. When you review your to-do list, you can assign numbers for how high up the priority they are, or you can start fresh with a list that’s arranged purely by priority. Let’s take an example: Say your highest priority is getting a job. This has to take a back-seat to eat and sleeping and taking physical care of you, of course, but as far as a to-do list, it is right up there at the top. How you secure that job is likely part of the prioritizing you’ll need to do, as it may entail training, researching, networking, legwork, polishing your resume, and a whole lot more. It will certainly require devoting considerable time to the task in order to accomplish your objective: Getting a job. Here’s another example of a task or project that falls under the priorities-based list: Redefining your life’s priorities. This one is a little more complex, as it involves some in-depth thinking about what’s really important in your life and resolving to make some changes so that you can actually accomplish what you desire to achieve. Some may say that this is the first item on any priorities-based list, for how can you assign priorities to items if you don’t know how important they are to you? In any case, a priorities-based list is more proactive than just staring at an endless catalog of things to do.

The Killer-Week List

Credit for this best to-do list goes to Jeff Shore, who wrote an intriguing column on it in LinkedIn. Instead of the same old boring to-do list, you’re used to, why not write up a killer-week list? This is the kind of list that would make you wonderfully proud to accomplish, that you not only get excited about but can’t wait to get started working on. Other plusses to a killer-week list include the feeling of satisfaction you’ll get at the end of the week knowing that you’ve tackled and completed the biggest, toughest, and most time-involving items on it. If you know that something is really important and will mean a big difference in your life, perhaps it belongs on your killer-week list. As Shore so aptly points out, when you handle the big stuff, the small stuff doesn’t tend to make you sweat. Indeed, once you’re able to handle the really critical items, you’ve likely got a pretty good idea how to get through all those little ones, too.

The Let-Me-Get-The-Small-Stuff-Out-of-the-Way List

Some people are undoubtedly motivated by quantity, as in the number of things they can get done in the shortest period of time. Unfortunately, some of these to-do items consume so much time that you never get started on the really important ones. There’s a solution to this dilemma: Create a let-me-get-the-small-stuff-out-of-the-way list. This doesn’t have to take a whole week, maybe just one or two days. Make it a point to tackle these little items that keep hanging around undone for weeks on end, and you’ll feel like you’ve got some weight off your mind. Maybe it’s arranging the tools in the garage so it’s easier to find what you need for a household project or hobby. It could be going through your closet and separating items to donate, recycle, reuse or trash. How about finishing the board puzzles with your children you started long ago that sat languishing on the dining room table, just begging to be completed? This is not to say that spending time with your children is a small-stuff item, but it’s indicative of something started that’s been left undone. Tending to it will add to your self-satisfaction as well as giving the kids some quality time with you. There are countless items on everyone’s list of small things that don’t really account for much, but they do add up. If you carve out some time to attack them specifically and get them done, you’ll feel much better about going on to work on the tougher items. By Suzanne Kane

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