I don’t know about you, but I have certainly had my todo list problems. They are a good thing, but you need to use them wisely to get the best out of them. Otherwise they just make you feel worse – the todo list that never ends; the jobs you never get around to; the important thing that never seems to happen. I have learnt to avoid all these problems with a few simple tweaks:

1. Do the most important thing first. You’ll read this over and over in any book about personal productivity, but it is SOOO true. If you do the things that seem urgent, or trivial you just waste your own time and energy. And if you are a real servant to other people don’t do the thing for the person who is shouting the loudest either. Whether your to do list is for work or for yourself pick the one thing that will make YOU feel satisfied when it’s done. This is usually the thing that needs the biggest input of concentration, energy or effort, so it makes sense to get it done when you are freshest – what’s the one thing that will make you feel your day has been worthwhile if it happens? Try to link it to a longer-term goal.

2. Don’t underestimate the little things. Tied to number 1 – how often have you had something big and important to do, but you don’t do it, you do everything else but. Checking your emails, or doing a task which seems small is a sure-fire way to avoid getting round to the things which matter. Here’s an example; the other day I had something important to do but I picked up a voicemail, and rang back my power company simply because they had asked me to. “Oh” I thought, “surely this will only take 5 minutes”. Twenty very frustrating minutes later I came off a call of little interest or relevance to me, just because I had let myself put someone else’s asks and processes above my own priorities. Don’t let anyone dictate what should be important to you.

3. Don’t underestimate what you can get done over the long term. Half an hour a day, every day is enough to: get and stay fit, write a novel, and….well anything you like really. Fitting in a little of what you want has to be better than fitting in none of what you want, which brings us to:

4. Manage either the outcome or the process, but not both. Sometimes we ‘don’t get around’ to tasks because we have managed to completely visualise in our heads HOW we are going to do it, and we are so caught up in these ideal conditions for getting it done, we fail because we can’t create those conditions. Back to writing that novel – just because you visualise yourself on a sun-drenched holiday bashing out that award-winning book amidst the palm trees and this year you can’t even afford a bus trip does not mean you cannot write the book. Accept reality and decide if you’d rather it happened, or you’d rather do it a certain way. You probably cannot have both.

5. Finally batch tasks. AFTER you have done your most important thing, you will still have a bunch of other things to do (or it wouldn’t be a list, right?!?). So, for everything else batch tasks by either location – they all happen at your computer, they all happen in the kitchen etc. or by type – these are all writing tasks, these are all payments, these are all phone calls etc. Batching tasks in this way will be more efficient.

There is so much more I could write about effective todo lists, but for now I hope these simple tips will help you rock your daily to do list, and make it your best to do list ever!

Which tip helped you the most? Try one out, and post a comment below.