70% of Brits keep a to do list, according to productivity expert Vanessa Loder. Organising your goals and daily tasks can be very helpful for keeping you on track – just make sure you’re not increasing your stress.
It’s fine to scribble down every idea, aim and task that occurs to you so that you don’t forget it, but keep this separate from your actual to do list. Many great creatives and entrepreneurs, Richard Branson included, keep ideas notebooks of things they’d like to get round to doing at some point. But when it comes to the list of things you need to get done today, Loder suggests picking three tasks and sticking to them. Just dumping everyhing on a page can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed, meaning you can end up doing nothing.
If you’re worried that you’ll forget all about the big ideas if you put them away and ignore them, try Business Guru Barbara Corcoran’s method instead. Corcoran’s to-do lists are divided into three sections: a “priority” section that lists the two or three most important things, a “review section” of quick things that are easy to get out of the way, and a “project list” of tasks that will help progress the company and bring in revenue. Within this section, tasks are labelled A, B or C, depending on how urgent or important they are.
Finally, if you’re the kind of person who takes one look at your list, groans, and wanders off to make a cup of tea, Marianne Cantwell’s “playground” approach might be the one for you. Instead of having a linear list of things to do that day, Cantwell suggests noting down a number of things you need to get down as well as ideas or projects you’re keen to explore but haven’t had time to do. First thing in the morning, she says, pick one thing that you are absolutely going to tackle that day and force yourself spend 20 minutes working on it. After that, she says, if your mind starts to wander, pick something else from your “playground” of ideas and work on that for a bit before returning to your priority tasks. In this way, Cantwell says, you still get to feel like you’re procrastinating, but in fact you’re doing far more useful work than if you ended up watching videos of micro pigs for two hours because you couldn’t face your to do list yet.