Hacking My To-Do List to Get More Done
It’s the Friday before Eroticon 2018, and I’ve worked (and am still working) hard to get as much done before I leave as possible. Between client work, blogging, and podcasting, it’s more than I anticipated. Although why I told myself 15 hour workdays were a thing I could just keep doing, I don’t know.
I’ve survived though — with help. Think lots of caffeine, pretending to work while I watch TV, and procrastination on Twitter. So. Much. Procrastination.
But I’m nearly done, and it’s thanks in part to finding a system that kept me organized and moving forward. Having an understanding partner who kept muttering to himself, “We just have to get to London, we just have to get to London” didn’t hurt either.
To do it, I’ve hacked my own to-do list. Why? Because my old system left me overwhelmed which made me procrastinate, start on the wrong things, and not use my time wisely. If you find yourself in that state more often than not, maybe this will work for you, too.
Start With a To-Do List
Okay, so point number one is pretty easy. You need a to-do list. A lot of people don’t write down what they need to get done, and that’s where problems begin.
I use paper and pen for my list, but you can use a planner, Excel spreadsheets, Evernote, Trello, or any system you like. The main point is to make a list and know exactly what you need to do.
My list includes everything for I need to get done for the week. And I mean everything.
- Client work
- Blog posts to be written
- Newsletters to send
- Stuff for Patreon
- My weekly radio interview (yep, that’s a thing I do)
- Podcast recordings
- Video recordings
- Appointments (personal or professional)
Before this, my to-do list was one long list of things I wanted to get done in a given week. And sometimes it went all the way to the bottom of the page. Talk about overwhelming!
Later I separated my list by “Client Work,” “Blogging,” and then “Other.” That other could be almost anything. Even separated out, it was too long and a little overwhelming. I couldn’t figure out what should be the priority of the day, except knowing what absolutely had to get done. That’s when I realized something had to change.
Create Mini To-Do Lists
So here’s the hack (and it seems deceptively simple to me so maybe we shouldn’t call it a hack?). Instead of one long list, I take my entire to-do list that needs to get done in a week and break it up by day. Every day of the week gets its own section (with the date – which helps with deadlines) and a mini to-do list.
- What I have to get done on a specific day (based on appointments or deadlines)
- What I think I can reasonably get done on a specific day
Now, instead of seeing my entire list and not knowing where to begin, I only have to focus on one specific day of the week. By including my personal appointments, I also force myself to be more realistic about my time. If an appointment always takes two hours (like my hair!), then I can’t schedule quite as much stuff to do.
If I get everything done, I can move ahead, if I want. But I can also stop for the day, guilt-free. Anything that doesn’t get done (because let’s be honest here) gets moved to the top item of the next day.
Sort Your List Ahead of Time
In a perfect world, I finish a to-do list on Friday and write the next week’s list for a Monday start. In the real world, I finish working on Sunday and get my to-do list ready for Monday.
But the bigger point is that you make this master set of mini to-do lists before the first day of your week. Take your entire list (however long and unwieldy it may be) and spend time breaking it up into smaller to-do lists.
By doing this, I can walk away from work knowing I won’t be wondering what the hell I need to do on Monday. I don’t have to remember small details or wonder what the week will bring.
When Monday rolls around, I just look at that day’s to-do list and get to work — without wondering where to start or if I’m going to be able to get a giant to-do list done. All I have to do is focus on that one specific day.
I know other people have to-do list systems and ways of getting it all done. Feel free to share your hacks in the comments below or on social media!