If you’re in need of a productivity reset, these are some of the ‘strategies’ I use to complete my to do lists.
1. Master Task List
My main strategy is maintaining a master task list. For my personal and blogging to do’s I use a master task list. For my work to do lists, I use Trello.
I use digital systems for this master task list so I can easily copy and paste, update and move tasks around. I used to have notebooks full of to do lists and despite being able to color code with sticky notes and use discbound systems to add and remove pages, it took too long to find things and it was overwhelming.
See this post for a detailed explanation (including video) of how I use my master tasks spreadsheet to keep a running list of tasks in one convenient place. I can then refer to it when I’m setting up my monthly and weekly spreads and transfer the relevant tasks to my paper planner. I can also color code cells if I want to flag specific tasks, hide rows if the list gets too long, filter tasks by priority etc.
You can download a copy for yourself from the free printables library.
2. Top 3
Top 3 for each day, top 3 for the week, top 3 for the month, top 3 for the year. I break as many lists as I can into a top 3 (I continue my numbering beyond the top 3 to as many as I need, but it really does help to isolate the 3 most important things).
If you’re not sure what your top 3 should be, I do a brain dump then add columns with x’s for the priority order.
3. 1.2.3 Method
Choose your top 3 and write them down. Finish those before you write another top 3.
To make this more manageable, try this:
- Biggest task you don’t want to do (do this first to get it out of the way). I usually pick something that will take 30 – 60 min
- Approx. 30 minute task
- Quick task (less than 15 minutes)
In an ideal world I would use this method… but having used it a few times my ratio of tasks is more like this:
- One big task (30 – 60 min)
- 3 smaller tasks (no longer than 30 min)
- 5 – 10 little things / quick tasks (15 minutes or less)
4. Task, estimated time, priority
A favorite of mine, I often use this layout when I have a lot of things to do but still don’t want to use a traditional weekly planner. Instead of allocating tasks to a day, I put the day it is due. So on Monday I might do 2 of Tuesday’s tasks and 1 of Wednesday’s tasks. I find this system far more flexible.
You’ve probably heard of the pomodoro method before. It’s very helpful for staying on track when you have a big project you just need to get done. I used it all the time for university assignments. Nowadays, I have a tendency to have many tabs open and Google random things and spend too much time trawling through Wikipedia so a timer going off is a ‘forced’ reminder to either get back on task (in my case) or to take a quick break.
I’m good at not looking at my phone too often, but if you’re distracted by Instagram you can go into settings > screen time > app limits and set a time. A message will pop up when you reach that time limit and block you from accessing the app for the rest of the day.
Monthly calendar stencils are useful for tracking pomodoro’s. I like hexagon stencils for something different but you could use boxes or circles instead.
Related post: Bee themed weekly spread in the Esc. goods notebook
6. Categorised lists
Lists for everything!
- Time based
- By person
I like to use A5 or Happy Planner classic size (the half sheet list refills work great for quick tasks). Anything larger than this and it becomes too clunky.
Related post: Favorite Happy Planner Refill Inserts
Use a separate page for each list. If there’s a list you use often, you could laminate it and mark off with a whiteboard marker, or use an editable printable so you don’t have to keep writing out the list. I do this with cleaning tasks lists and habit trackers (which are like a monthly routines to do list for me).
7. Eat that frog
If you only get 1 task done that day, the ‘eat that frog’ task is it. The most important and urgent task to get done. Identify which task it is then the rest of the items on your to do list won’t seem so daunting.
8. Must do, should do and if I have time
I loosely base this off of the Eisenhower decision matrix and it’s quadrant layout.
9. Color Coding
The simplest and quickest method on this list. Do a brain dump of everything that needs to be done, then color code using highlighters. I like to do 3 different colors:
- Most urgent
- Not urgent
10. Distraction free apps
There are plenty of distraction free apps that work with your phone or computer but my issue with these is the cost. Some of them are a monthly subscription too.
If you’re interested in distraction free apps, here are some to look into:
- Focus To-Do: Pomodoro Timer & To Do List
- To Do List with Reminder
- Rescue Time
- Self control (for Mac only – free)
More planning tips
- 7 functional ways to use an expired planner
- The 3 things I plan digitally instead of using pen and paper
- 10 Reasons why I plan using printables (and why you should too!)
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