How to Manage ‘To Do’ lists

Last time I blogged I was thinking about to do lists and New Year Resolutions. I love a list but sometimes it can make me feel like I’m not achieving enough because I set myself unrealistic targets for the day or week. I thought about this a bit more and realised that I usually meet my longer term targets so perhaps it was time to specifically think about how I use short term lists everyday to reduce any stress they induce and increase my feeling of achievements.

With two new notebooks in hand I broke it down like this:

Long term lists

A friend once explained the concept of the five-year-plan. She had written one to sort out her life priorities and as a discussion starter with her partner to check they were working towards the same life goals. I wrote one with Matthew a few years ago and it’s really helped us save and plan where we want to be. Having got to year four of the original five we revised it this New Year. 2023 feels like The Future but we have an idea of where we might want to be then.

To write one yourself think about where you’d like to be in five or so years. Where will you live? What will you be doing day to day? Who will you be spending time with? It should be no more than five points and real big picture stuff.

Medium term lists

These are more task focused and can be informed by your five-year-plan. Whatever the long term goal is break it down into manageable pieces to help you get there.  If you want to move to a bigger house do you need to save up? Write a plan for that. Want to downsize? Work up a list room by room of things to sell or give away over time. You might only look at this list once a month or so but use it to reset yourself when you’re feeling a bit lost. Don’t have something so big on the horizon? List the projects that you want to do but don’t have an urgent need. For me that might be repainting a piece of furniture or redecorating a room.

Short term lists

This is your day-by-day or week-by-week list and this is where it can get complicated. I realised that some of my short term tasks were actually medium term tasks and that’s why I was getting stressed about not completing the list. My new approach is to pare back my lists to only three achievable things per day. If this fills you with horror, I hear you. But don’t worry, you will get much more done as unexpected things pop up throughout the day. Add those to the list to tick off. Choose the three tasks you really need or want to get done and start there. You can add more later from your weekly or monthly list if you are being productive.  BUT you can’t add anything until you’ve done the original three things. Use this as suits you best. At work this means having a weekly list which I break down to three things each day whereas at home I have a monthly list to feed from.

Here are my top tips for list makers everywhere:

  1. Get organised – Write your long term and medium term lists when you have some time to dedicate to it. Use them to feed your daily or weekly to do list.
  2. Keep your short term list to no more than three points.
  3. Recognise what you have done and don’t focus on what you haven’t – If you later do something that’s not on the list add it on and tick it off.
  4. Take a break – Catch up on Netflix or browse Instagram until you feel ready to tackle the next task.
  5. Don’t be a slave to the list – If a friend spontaneously suggests a coffee allow yourself to go.
  6. It’s ok to say no – it’s also fine to say you’re busy!
  7. Life gets in the way – sometimes things come up that you didn’t plan for. Look for the positives and experience they bring with them.

3 thoughts on “How to Manage ‘To Do’ lists

  1. Kiran2000 says:

    Hannah, thanks for sharing those tips with us. I love the part of long term, medium term, and short term lists. Yes, to complete the tasks you need to prioritize them by their importance. And this method is helpful for sure. Though, these tips remind me of a book Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. In the book, he has given a very surefire way to prioritize your tasks and finish them without procrastination. You may find those tips at the end of this blog: | By the way, I enjoyed reading your article… Keep up the good work dear. Have a good day…


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