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The fine art of making to-do lists for dummies

Like yin and yang, we each are a mixture of opposite sides, that's our own share of the duality of life. You might already be familiar with your own Dr. Jekyl and Ms.Hide's, the sum of different opposites making you, you. 🎭

When it comes to my productivity, it made a big difference for me to get to know and learn to manage my two opposite sides.

The -well-rested, sharp thinking, energized- wise me vs the -tired, stressed-out, overly caffeinated- poor me, and all the shades of grey in between. 😊

I realized that most of the time the "wise me" was the one making the to-do lists, but in the course of the day, the "poor me" was left to its own means to survive.


Often the items we catch in our inbox are fleeting thoughts,

boiled down into one word, with not much further explanation attached to it.

An example David Allen often uses is “Mom”.

“Mom” on our mind sweep list could mean anything from “call mom” to “talk to sister about what to do about mom” to “google doctors for Mom” to “call florist” to “ask mom for money” to “buy mom a birthday gift”.


Now -after many trials and errors- I know that;

when I am going through a busy day and seeing only "mom" on my to-do list

- makes my mind go blank,

- then I feel the big urge to skip it,

- my eyes start searching for another item on the list -that my mind can more easily grasp-

- and there starts my procrastination cycle! 🧶

Keeping in mind that I will lack the energy or the focus, many times in life, over time the wise me learned to make better to-do lists.

My 5 best tips for making your to-do lists dummy-proof 😉

1- First process!

That scribble on that post it or your mind sweep list is not your to-do list!

The input there is still raw. Always take a moment to define the actual task or tasks that you want to get done.

2-Use a very clear language: like you are giving instructions to a child.

It helps me to sit down and clarify at a time I have the focus and define my tasks -as clear as possible- ahead of time.

3-Start with action verbs:

Draft this, Finalize that, Buy those, etc

4-Whenever possible, add the necessary info for your easy access.

(e.g note the phone number of the person you will call in your to-do list, instead of having to search for it prior to making the call.)

5-Batch / Group items in similar context together

It costs more energy to initiate something than to keep it rolling. Therefore if you start and get in the mood of doing something, it feels easier to do more of similar ones and get into a productive flow.

Because switching from task to task costs energy, it is more efficient to combine tasks on your lists in batches. Batching works best when you block a chunk of time for the purpose in your agenda.

e.g. Phone calls, blog posts, emails, agenda topics with certain people, shopping lists etc

Photo bySTILonUnsplash

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