How do you create a more useful to-do list?

I have to admit, to-do lists have been a mystery. I know I need to have one to make sure things get done, but at the same time they didn’t always perform as I needed them to.

That mystery was why I was so keen on getting To-Do List Makeover by S. J. Scott when I saw it. And it didn’t let me down. It’s a short, focused manual on creating to-do lists that create productivity. 

I liked the strategy of having four lists for specific purposes, and how to use the lists for maximum output. Here are my notes, but the book is worth the read to fill in all the details.

How am I using this system?

First of all, I put cartoon ideas, dashboard ideas, and data management ideas into the Idea Capture List. This gives a central location for projects to do when I have time. I also put in good examples of things I find, such as dashboard designs. The book recommends using Evernote for the Idea Capture List, and it works really well for easily capturing web clips of good dashboard designs.

Second, the Project List helps me make a plan for bringing projects to completion. If a project isn’t fully fleshed out into specific tasks, the project isn’t ready to start. Often tasks may need to be refined or I missed a needed step, but it’s a whole lot better than trying to start from nothing.

Third, the Weekly List helps me focus so that I’m not overwhelmed. It also helps me to not sit around twiddling my thumbs because I’m not sure what to do at the moment. 

Fourth, the Most Important Tasks helps me move my personal interests and career goals forward each day. I’ve found that an important consideration of these tasks is to make sure they aren’t too big, otherwise it gets easy to procrastinate. When the tasks are small and easy to accomplish, it’s easier to get started and finish. For example, instead of having “create a cartoon”, I break it down into one of the steps, such as sketch an idea, ink the cartoon, or color the cartoon. 

Each of these lists are helping me better organize my work to keep growing, learning, and be more productive. Try it and see if it helps you.

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