The Best Way to Start on Your To-do List Right Now
If you’re anything like me you love writing to-do lists, but trying to actually start on your to-do list is like pulling teeth. The longer your list gets the harder it is to actually start and soon you’re just watching hilarious dog videos on YouTube and stuffing popcorn into your mouth.
Oh, that’s just me? Oh, well!
To help you all be your best selves I decided to make a list of the best ways to start on your to-do list that have allowed me to easily and painlessly check things off.
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Find a way to create a to-do list that works for you.
Do bullet journals make your heart go pitter patter or does keeping track of everything electronically work better for you? There are countless ways you can keep track of your to-do list. Experiment and figure out which one works best for you.
Personally, I love Evernote. You can attach photos, search easily, and you can get it on your computer and your phone. You can even add the web clipper to your toolbar so you can clip anything you see on the web. The sky is the limit.
My favorite part is that you can put all the notes you take into one notebook. So instead of seeing all your lists at one time, you can just view your lists for that notebook. When I’m blogging the last thing I want to see is my personal to-do list. Super distracting.
I still have multiple “notes”, but I can choose just to see all the ones that are labeled underneath my “blogging notebook”.
I would honestly be lost without Evernote.
Find one method and stick with it.
I am literally a list-making fiend. I find it super cathartic to write down a list of all the stuff bouncing around in my head. My problem is that I will write lists everywhere! My notebook at work, my planner, my journal, online and maybe a napkin or two(don’t judge).
The problem with writing lists everywhere is that it takes work to keep track of them all (and I usually don’t) and I get a lot of repeats. That’s not productive and I found myself wasting time trying to consolidate everything when I could be working on my actual tasks! Boo. That’s no help.
So you’ve already figured out your best to-do list keeping method. Now stick with it. Don’t write lists anywhere else. You can have multiple lists, in fact, I advise it, but don’t keep them in multiple places. It’s too messy and we’re looking for the opposite of messy right now.
Use the Pomodoro Technique.
The easiest way to start on your to-do list is to break it down into manageable timeframes. Instead of looking at hours of work you’re looking at chunks of time followed by a quick break.
The Pomodoro technique is traditionally 25 minutes of work with a short break after, but I prefer to work in 45-minute increments with a 15-minute break. I find that 25 minutes is too short for me because by the time I get into my groove it’s time for a break.
Sometimes I’m tempted to go longer than the 45 minutes, but it really is important to take that break because you come back refreshed and, therefore, more productive.
You check out a bunch of Pomodoro Timers here and find which one works best for you.Did you know that Pomodoro is short for tomato!? So the Pomodoro Technique is actually the Tomato Technique! How cute!Click To Tweet
Break it down.
Not only do you want to break down how long you’re working for, but you also want to break down larger tasks into manageable, bite-size chunks so you don’t get overwhelmed.
For example, I’m working on my free offering for all you lovely people. I’m creating a short E-book to jumpstart you on your way to your best life. If I just wrote “work on opt-in” on my to-do list I would avoid it because it’s super overwhelming. By breaking it down into different parts it’s a lot more manageable.
“Work on opt-in” turns into “come up with a title”, “design cover”, “make outline”, and so on. It was so much simpler to get started on it once it wasn’t this big, time-consuming to-do that I had to accomplish.
Just start on your to-do list
“Start” is my word of the year. Anticipation anxiety is a real thing and can prevent you from getting a start on your to-do list. You worry about all the what-ifs and possibilities that 99% of the time will never happen.
Has worrying ever actually helped you? It hasn’t helped me. It’s just eaten my time up like a big productivity eating monster.
So slay that monster by letting go of all the thoughts and feelings that aren’t serving you and just start. Often when you simply start your to-do list the momentum will keep you moving forward.
I thought this article would take me a long time because I’d have to sit and ponder what really took me from being a perfectionist who sat on my to-do list to one who kicked its butt each day. I just started and everything just came flowing out of me. It’s not always like that, but sometimes you just need to start on your to-do list to show yourself you can do it.
Make multiple lists.
I have a LOT of to-do lists. I have a daily to-do list, weekly to-do list, and an “I should do this eventually” to-do list and that’s just for blogging! By separating them out like that I find that they’re easier to manage, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone. Figure out what serves you best by experimenting because it’s so much easier to start on your to-do list when you have them organized.
I like having multiple to-do lists because it makes everything more manageable and I like separating my work life from my personal life. It limits distractions and helps me focus on what I’m doing at that moment.
For super important deadlines I also use my delightful Erin Condren planner. It’s technically my one caveat to keeping all my lists in one place because I like to have all my major due dates written into my schedule. I say technically because I view this more as a scheduling issue and less of a to-do list issue.
For some reason, electronic calendars have just never worked for me. I love handwriting it into a cute planner and this one comes with stickers. It’s like Lisa Frank for adults. Who could say no!?
Everything on Erin Condren is 25% off right now with the code INLUCK25 (3/15/18) so check them out and get excited about planning!
I also use these super affordable pens to keep things bright and cheery. I’ve had them for almost a year now and they’re still working great!
Add one easy thing to your list.
I get a frisson of excitement every time I check something off my to-do list. I make sure to put one easy thing on my list that I can either check off right away or that I can treat myself with throughout my day.
It really depends on what kind of mood I’m in. If I’m having a really unmotivated day I’ll put something super easy like “brush my teeth” so I can check it off right away and feel successful. If it’s a good day then I’ll add something I’m always excited to do like “respond to blog comments.”
I know it sounds silly and I thought so too, but it has actually really helped me to feel more successful with tackling my to-do list.
Do the hardest thing first.
I learned this one way back in elementary school when we first started getting homework. I loved reading but hated math. It wasn’t that I was bad at math, but it definitely didn’t spark my soul like reading or English did.
I don’t remember who I learned this from, but it stuck with me and has served me well. In order to get a great start on your to-do list accomplish the hardest task first. Then you won’t be dreading it and you’re coming at it with a fresh mind.
People often save the hardest until last causing them to drag their feet on other tasks because they don’t want to reach the end. If it’s at the end of your list you’re also going to be tired and worn out by the time you get to it. That will make it even harder to accomplish which just furthers your belief that this is a hard thing to do.
In my case this was math. I was never bad at it, but I wasn’t great either. By saving it until last I was tackling it when I was at my most tired and it made it seem so much more difficult. I started to believe I was actually bad at math. Once I started tackling it first it was so much easier and I remembered a lot more of what I learned.
Make a work area you love.
I’m a huge believer in keeping little things around me that remind me of what my goals are. My boyfriend made me this adorable, custom LED sign for my website that reminds me every day of why I started Buddha Belly and why I continue to pour my blood, sweat, and tears into it.
Creating a spot to work that’s comfortable and motivating can really help you when you start on your to-do list. It makes you want to be there!
I have my dream desk. It has a glass top and metallic saw-horse legs and a comfy pink chair. On my actual desk in a Himalayan salt lamp, pictures of my loved ones and little organizers because you can never be too organized. And of course a ton of candles!
I try and keep my space as neat as possible because I’ve found a clean workspace leads to a clean mind.
I’ll never tell my mom she was right though, haha!
Know your limits.
When I’m getting ready to start my to-do list I try and only put as many items on there as I think I can reasonably do. If you put a superhuman’s worth of tasks on your to-do list you’re setting yourself up to fail. No one wants to start on their to-do list when they know they can’t win. That’s no fun and definitely won’t leave you feeling successful at the end of the day.
Sure some days I have stuff leftover. Life happens. But knowingly putting too much on there isn’t helpful and can lead to monkey brain (your mind is just all over the place).
So before you start your to-do list take a look at your schedule and ask yourself if you reasonably think you’d be able to fit this in.
Okay, so as much as I know I shouldn’t put too many things on my to-do list…I usually do anyway. Guilty as charged. I don’t always take my own advice.
Since I know this about myself I make sure that I prioritize my list.
This means before you start on your to-do list you should either rewrite your list in order from most important to least or you can write little numbers next to each item on your list with 1 being the most important. That way if you don’t finish you at least got the most important stuff done.
Before you start your to-do list and slay your day grab a cup of coffee and think of a reward for yourself.
Is it an episode of your favorite show at the end of the day? Do you have a great wine chilling in the fridge to treat yourself to after dinner?
Whatever it is, figure it out, and reward yourself for a hard days work. It gives you something to look forward to besides the feeling of accomplishment that comes from checking things off.
Today my treat is my FabFitFun box that I’ve been tracking like a child watching the Google Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve. It finally arrived, but I’m waiting to experience all the goodies until the end of the day when I’ve gotten all the big to-dos checked off!
This is how I went from Netflix procrastinator to to-do list slayer. It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest on the block if you aren’t accomplishing anything.
Start on your to-do list using these tips and you’ll feel like a productive superwoman in no time.
If you liked these tips please share it with others who might find it helpful! Also, check out my post on self-care because you’re going to need it after all that hard work.
Do you have any tips on how to get through your to-do list? Please let me know below because I’d love to start using them!