Create a Simple To-Do List
If you are anything like me, managing yourself can be one of the biggest challenges you face in your side hustle venture. You will produce the best quality product if you focus on the individual tasks one at a time. That is why today I am sharing with you how to create a simple and effective to-do list.
Why create a simple to-do list
We love to-do lists! It tells us exactly what to do and we get to scratch off the items we complete. Not only do they manage the workload, but they also give us a little boost of confidence in knowing we can accomplish our goals. The best part is that there really is no right or wrong way to make a to-do list. In this post, I’m going to walk you through how I made mine after struggling to follow a schedule.
We make lists all the time, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. They exist in our minds when we run to the store, they materialize on a post-it note when your boss asks for last month’s numbers, they even seep into the cracks of your waking brain as you roll out of bed in the morning, giving direction to the morning routine.
Believe it or not, we live by to-do lists. By creating a to-do list for our side hustle efforts, we can stay on task and hold ourselves accountable when things don’t get done. Lists keep us moving forward, but due to our fast-paced nature as a society, to-do lists can also guide us into the land of multitasking. With only 24 hours in a day, sometimes we think we can get more done by focusing on more than one item at a time.
Multitasking has become a normal activity. We even talk this up as a strength in job interviews. The truth is that multitasking is the worst thing you can do. If your list is longer than the day is bright, this can be very tempting, but I implore you to think twice.
Multitasking is not a quality, it’s a Succubus!
In Vlog Sunday #5, I spoke about multitasking and the theory that it doesn’t actually exist. Multitasking is a way of life for most of us, however, we hardly realize the impact it actually has on our productivity, the quality of work, and our own mental health.
There are times where we must do multiple tasks at once, but if we can avoid it when possible, our work will be better, our stress level will be better, and our overall sense of accomplishment will be better. This is why a to-do list is a must-have tool for bloggers, vloggers, voice-over artists, and any other folks in the creative space.
There is plenty of research out there that indicates multitasking impacts productivity when jumping back and forth between tasks, it also has been shown to impact performance and may even be bad to the health of your brain.
I read an article this week from verywellmind.com about multitasking. The author, Kendra Cherry, cites some research that suggests just that.
Cherry cited a 2009 study at Stanford University, where it was shown that individuals who are considered “Heavy Multitaskers” (People who attempt several tasks at once) had trouble distinguishing relevant details from irrelevant details. The result was surprising to those conducting the study. But, that’s not all.
According to researchers, the results were the same if the multitaskers were not multitasking. The researcher, Clifford Nass, found that their ability to think, both simply and deeply were equally bad and below the level that of those who were not severe multitaskers.
It was the result of extreme multitasking over time that led to the deficiency. The good news is the damage on the mind can be reversed, but it starts with limiting your focus on a few things. Now, let’s fight this plague, but we need to start from the beginning to ensure our to-do list includes all our main tasks.
List out every task you do
Now that I’ve thrown some information to deter you from multitasking, it is time to create our to-do list. This could be one of the most helpful tools you will create as long as you can resist the urge to multitask and focus on one task at a time.
The first thing we need to do is make a list of all the tasks you perform in a day, or a week, or even a month. Your list does not have to be in a particular order yet. We will organize this list later.
The items can be general tasks like “Schedule Pins on Tailwind” or “Post to Facebook Group.” Alternatively, you can be very specific, but I would stay general so that you do not have to modify your list all the time.
Don’t worry if it is not perfect. You want to get as many tasks recorded now, but you can always add to the list later.
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Organize your tasks by frequency
Once you have your task list together, it is then time to think about how often you perform these tasks. Do you check stats weekly? Do you re-pin your posts to a new Pinterest board daily? Do you assess blog functionally monthly? Whatever your tasks are, just make note of how often you do them.
For this part, it may be beneficial to do this in a word document or Google Docs so that you can just copy and paste the tasks into your list. Once you have determined how often you perform each item, we can now start to create an organized to-do list.
Building the structure of the to-do list
It is time to build the to-do list, but before we start picking days for each task, we need to decide where we will build our list. My advice is to pick the format which you are most comfortable with. For the list I am making, I will use Excel, but you can just as easily create this list in any format you would like.
If you are in a program like Microsoft Word or Goggle Docs, you will want to create a table with 7 columns. Each column will represent a day of the week. Don’t worry about the number of rows in your table. You can add more rows later. If using Excel, pick 7 adjacent cells in one row. For example, if the first cell you pick is B2, then the last cell would be H2.
When that part is finished, put each day of the week at the top of each column. You can take this time to format text and add some color to the top row if you want, but you can wait until we’re all done. When finished inputting the days of the week, it should look something like this:
If you want to also make a monthly list, you can follow this same format, only put the name of each month in the top row.
Insert your high priority tasks first
The purpose of creating a simple to-do list is to make life easier and to keep us focused on the important task of each day. Let’s help ourselves here by making sure we do not just throw any task in any spot and call it a day. For many of us, we’ve created content schedules, or we have other obligations on certain days of the week. It is time to do some critical thinking now so that we don’t have to deviate from our list later.
Look at the list you created already. Start by picking out the highest priority items and insert those first. Take into consideration your own schedules and availability and insert those most-important tasks on days that make sense. If you have a content schedule like I do, you might enter “Publish New Post” on the days you release new content.
It is up to you what is most important, but decide, and enter these tasks now.
Keep adding tasks to each day
Once our VIP tasks are in their nice, new homes, it is time to fill in the additional tasks, still being mindful of their importance. It is a great opportunity to list the tasks each day in order of priority. This creates a visual hierarchy of priority.
Alternatively, you could come up with a totally different system to mark important tasks, like an icon or bold text.
Continue to assess and insert your tasks until you have entered all of your tasks into the list. It is fine if you have one day that you have fewer tasks than others. If you know you will have less time to work on Wednesdays and Fridays, you should have fewer tasks to complete on those days. You have less time available to complete tasks.
Make it pretty
I like visual things and I like it when things look nice. This is the time you want to format and color your list however you want. If you are okay with plain text, skip this step, but it will be much nicer to look at if you add a little color, or maybe a logo, or a picture. Just don’t spend hours formatting, because you’ve got serious work to do.
Using your new simple to-do list
One of the main benefits of using a to-do list is the visual and physical act of crossing items off the list. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and builds our confidence. If we don’t have a way to mark these items done, then we lose some of the magic that is our simple to-do list.
You’ll need to come up with a way to visually mark each item complete. Since I’m using an Excel document, I color cells green if the item is completed and red if I do not complete the task. Not only am I gauging my progress, but I am also active going through each item and asking myself “did I complete this task?”
When the week is over, I can clear out the fill color of each cell and start over. You’ll need to decide what works best for you and your list, but if you are using a digital copy, make sure it is easy to reset each week.
Re-evaluate your list regularly
While this may be obvious to some of you, it is a good idea to reassess your list on a regular basis to make sure that it still fits your goals and it still fits your schedule.
You should consider adding and removing items as your activities change. Even if you never change your list, it will be a great refresher of what to expect in the coming week.
The secret to making your to-do list actually help you
Just making a to-do list and eliminating this to do by completing tasks seems positive. One thing that you should not forget is the ultimate goals you are trying to accomplish. It is one thing to create a list of tasks and finish them. It is totally different if that list is tailored to help you meet your goals.
I read a transcript today on Big Think of a video featuring Charles Duhigg. Now, I’m not going to quote the information, but what Duhigg points out is that the most successful of us write some of these goals down before we even consider what goes into the to-do list. Think about this in simpler terms.
You make a grocery list so that you know what items to buy at the grocery store, but did you ever consider what the actual goal is for the grocery list? The goal is not just to buy the items. It is to ensure you have the right items and amounts of those items to successfully feed you or your family. What if you changed that goal to read “to successfully and healthily feed you or your family”?
I bet your list would look much different if you are anything like me. Goodbye, pizza rolls, highly-caffeinated soda, and spicy cheese dip.
It is one small snippet of the video, but it ties in perfectly. I’ve shown you how to make a to-do list, but it is up to you to make sure that the to-do list aims to achieve a goal. If it does not, then it is time to re-evaluate your daily tasks and develop a new list that will actually help you.
So now that you have a nice, new, and simple to-do list, it is time to tackle those tasks and start the revolution you always thought you would.
Before you go, please make sure you check out these posts from other blogs. The information helped shape this post!
How Multitasking Affects Productivity and Brain Health – Kendra Cherry – https://www.verywellmind.com/multitasking-2795003
Big Think – Charles Duhigg – The Science of To-Do Lists: Psychology Can Make You More Productive https://bigthink.com/videos/charles-duhigg-on-the-science-of-to-do-lists