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Top to-do-list mistakes that you should avoid at any cost

Posted: 24/07/2018

Organising yourself with to-do-lists, whether in traditional paper form or with the help of new-fangled mobile apps is a great way to get more out of your day. However, this handy method of keeping on track needs to be done properly otherwise you could end up derailing your attempts at leading a productive life. Here are a few classic mistakes that you should try and avoid.

Mistake 1 – Long lists
One direct way to sabotage your success is to include too many tasks on your to-do-list. If you’re including projects that are going to take months or weeks to complete, then you’ll simply become overwhelmed. Instead you should try and break things down into smaller ‘subtasks’ and be realistic about what you might be able to get done in a day. You’ll have a greater feeling of achievement if you can tick off small jobs which will mean you can maintain your motivation.

Mistake 2 – Treating all of your tasks equally
To create an effective to-do-list you need to be able to prioritize. Not only should you only include achievable tasks, but you should also grade them as to how urgent they actually are. Go down your list and add a score from one to three with regards to importance and then begin tackling them in that order.

Mistake 3 – Not making a new list
Many people that try out to-do-lists will create one big list at the start of the week and that’s it. The problem with this approach is that everyday our priorities change, and without a regular appraisal of your pending tasks you end up with an outdated list that allows jobs to fall through the cracks.

Mistake 4 – Deviating from your list
Another common problem that conspires to derail our productivity is the introduction of random tasks. A to-do-list should be exhaustive of everything that you really need to achieve that day. If you allow extra tasks to take over then you can end up back at square one. If something needs doing then it needs to go on your to-do-list along with a calculation of how important it is, otherwise you’ll spend the entire day distracted with jobs that might not be all that important.

Mistake 5 – Using multiple lists
It’s a big enough challenge to keep one to-do-list up to date. If you have multiple lists written down on paper, on your phone, on your computer and on another device then you’ll quickly find yourself spinning out of control. The best approach is to have one definitive list that you keep up to date throughout the day and generally speaking the best medium is a plain old-fashioned pen and paper.

Mistake 6 – Forgetting to add expected durations
Let’s say you’ve given yourself a dedicated half an hour for lunch at midday. It gets to 12:15 and you’ve finished a big project early. What do you do with those 15 minutes? You could surf the internet, read the newspaper, check your social media, or you could start on a new task on your to-do-list. However, most likely you won’t want to start work on a job that you’ll only be able to dip your toes into in those 15 minutes of allocated time. There’ll be plenty of tasks on your to-do-list which might only take 10 or 15 minutes, but without writing down the estimated time to complete a job next to each task you won’t know where to start. Make this a key part of your to-do-list to help you get more out of those unexpected periods of free time.

What’s your favourite approach to to-do-lists? Do you have any special techniques or strategies that help you smash your tasks? Let us know by connecting on social media at @TimeForYouGroup.