3 ways to make your to-do list work for you

When it comes to increasing productivity and improving work-life balance, the simple things should never be discounted.

Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

It may be the oldest organisation trick in the book, but the humble to-do list has so much more to offer than you might think. As with all productivity and organisation strategies, the real key is finding the best way to make it work for you. To get you off in the right direction, here are three key things to consider:

Choose a medium that suits you

Get physical or go digital? Digital to-do lists have the benefit of flexibility. You can move things around and reorder without starting from scratch or drawing arrows all over the place. Apps such as trello or todist, allow you to integrate your lists with email or calendars, as well as to share them with team members or collaborators.

A physical pen-and-paper to-do list shouldn’t be discounted however. Multiple studies show that the act of writing down information greatly increases our chances of remembering it.  So while integrations on digital lists mean that we’re unlikely to miss anything, writing actually does the same. The fact that it’s static has the added bonus of requiring us to put that little bit of extra thought into what we’re prioritising.

Show your accomplishments

While it’s easy to see a to-do list as a tool that shows us what we need to get done, it’s also a fantastic way of seeing what we’ve already achieved.  Make sure that your to-do system allows you to view your progress. This will boost your sense of achievement and also your productivity by giving positive reinforcement as you work your way through tasks.

For paper lists the obvious answer is to cross out completed tasks, but there are alternatives. Try highlighting them or adding a star to activate the reward-driven part of your brain. For digital lists you can experiment with adding items to a ‘done’ list and take joy from seeing it grow.

Write it in advance

Work-life balance is a hard thing to come by these days. The temptation to check email at all hours, combined with the fear of forgetting something important, means that we can struggle to truly switch off. No matter the format or medium of your to-do list make a habit of writing it in advance. Whether it’s at the end of each day, or last thing on a Friday, taking some time to collect your thoughts while work is fresh in your mind means you’ll be able to disconnect properly, safe in the knowledge that you’re set up for the days ahead.

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