Lists are my friends. They help me accomplish so much. However, when I make a list and what I put on it are very important to the success of my completing that list.
I’ve tried making lists at different times. I have made lists when life became overwhelming and I needed to figure out what all must be done. I have made lists in the mornings for the current day. I’ve also made lists at the beginning of the week for each day of that week.
Sometimes these methods have worked, but more often than not, they have not been that effective to help me get the results I am looking for.
I have discovered that the best time to create a to-do list is in the evening before I go to bed. This list is for the next day only.
Why is that? Well, when I’ve tried making a list in the morning for the current day, I tended to add too many tasks to the list. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the newness and promise of a new day and think I can accomplish so much that day. Then, reality sets in and I get distracted or am interrupted. By the end of the day I have not made great progress on my list.
This is what I do to make my to-do list:
1. I check to see what appointments I have the next day.
Obviously, appointments that are already set take precedence over anything else that happens that day. Most likely these appointments will not be changed. They show me where my time is already spoken for.
2. I think about what really needs to be done that day.
As I mentioned above, it’s all too easy to overload our to-do lists thinking we’ll get everything done. Once I see what time I have left after I fulfill my appointments, I can begin to think about what absolutely must happen that day. I usually list only three things that must be done that day. Anything else I add to my list and accomplish is just icing on the cake.
I find when I can focus on the top three things that need to be done, I don’t feel so overwhelmed. Sure, it’s nice when you can complete a lot of other tasks, but getting those top three tasks taken care of will definitely help you feel like you’ve spent your time wisely.
3. I assess any possible areas of distraction or interruption.
You can’t always plan for distractions or interruptions. However, you can look over your schedule and see where these things might pop up.
For instance, maybe your child isn’t feeling well when you put him to bed. You know that there is a possibility he may not be able to go to school the next day. So, you can begin to think about how you need to rearrange your schedule to take care of him and possibly take him to the doctor if needed.
Or, you may notice on your calendar that tomorrow is your friend’s birthday. You haven’t made any real plans to celebrate, but you know there is a possibility a group of you will get together for the occasion. Knowing that’s a possibility, you can decide if you really want to tackle a lot of tasks or leave things flexible so you can join in on the celebration.
To-do lists are meant to simplify our lives so we can get the important things done. I challenge you to try to make your list out the night before and see what a difference it makes in your day.