The To-Do List: the Ultimate weapon for Time Management

Published by jose.munevar on

Post-its, receipts, coffee-stained napkins, we write everywhere. All 5 books of Harry Potter were written on scraps of paper. Pixar’s biggest successes (A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and Wall-E) were all created over lunch and sketched on napkins. When you come up with an idea, or you remember that “thing” you had to do, there’s an intrinsic need to write it down to “not forget it”. Still, do you painstakingly carry around all these (seemingly very important) scraps of paper? Or have you lost them more than once? Your ideas and tasks are forgotten at the bottom of a bag or shredded by the laundry machine inside a pocket, and it shouldn’t happen.

To-do lists, or task lists, are a compound of all your responsibilities. They are a tool that helps you organize your day by compiling every single task you have to complete. It might seem like a to-do list differs in nothing with a shopping one, but that’s an error. To-do lists are thorough; all responsibilities are written down, prioritized, and scheduled. Now, you might ask:

Do I Really Need a To-Do List?

Yes, you do. No matter if you are a project manager, a student, or a freelancer, we all have stuff to do day by day. Of course, deciding whether to use it or not is up to you. But, do you want to eat cereal without milk again? Or get you electricity cut because you didn’t pay the bills? I think not. To-do lists allow you to organize your day in a way so all the really important “stuff” gets done first without forgetting the existence of the smaller, more menial tasks (like buying milk). Nevertheless, and pay close attention to this, a to-do list only works as much as the effort you put into it.

Sure, organizing your tasks is great and according to science, our brain loves it (, but without a conscious effort to complete those tasks (a.k.a. procrastination), it is as useful as a shopping list in a shop-less place

How To Make the Perfect To-Do List

I, for one, am a fan of the gorgeous calendars and to-do lists you can find on Pinterest and Instagram under “time management ”, but that is not a realistic approach to a to-do list. Here are some pointers you can follow to create one awesome list:

  • Write EVERYTHING down. Do this as a “mockup” list. You need to put everything down so you can later organize it and exhaust all of your responsibilities. 
  • Organize by task list. Now that you’ve written everything down, it is important you organize it by categories. For example, Work, Home, and Personal. Breaking it down allows you to focus on what’s necessary at different times of the day. 
  • Prioritize your tasks. Now, this might be THE most important thing to have a successful to-do list. Organize your tasks by order of importance in a descendant way; the most important tasks first. 
  • Keep everything in one place. Your list might be divided and prioritized, but it must be kept in one place, it’s the whole point of having a to-do list, centralizing your tasks. It can either be in a book, your phone’s notes, or an amazing app like Workep, you decide.

How to Prioritize My Tasks

“Important” might seem like a very subjective matter, but there’s a science to it. Tasks that have high priority are those that;

  1. Will exponentially diminish your workload. Which yeah, means the bigger, the better. Remember the Pareto principle, 80% of your results come from 20% of your work.
  2. Are time sensitive. And it doesn’t mean “procrastinate until it becomes REALLY time-sensitive and the prioritize it”. It means to complete tasks that have a deadline faster, no matter if the deadline is 2 months from now(of course, finish first those who need to be done earlier.)
  3. Other tasks depend on. This especially applies if you are part of a team. If a task you are responsible for is contingent upon another team member’s task, it should be prioritized, do it for the team!

Be it for your every day, for your team, or your project, to-do lists are truly a powerful productivity and time-management tool. Whether you use one and stick to it is totally up to you, but I, for one, highly recommend them. If you want to find out more about the amazing science of time-management or have any topic you want us to cover, don’t hesitate to tell us! And good luck with your tasks!

Let us know where the weirdest place you’ve used to take notes is in the comments 🙂

Categories: Project management


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