Odds are if you’re reading this post, you probably use some kind of daily to-do list system in your life, right? The question is, are you using that system to it’s maximum potential? Are you getting everything done on that list each day?

If you’re like a lot of people, you use a daily to-do list and you may even check some things off each day, but you may be making a mistake that many people make that causes a HUGE problem not only in terms of productivity, but also in the fundamental way you organize your thoughts.

Don’t feel bad. It’s a common mistake, and I’m here to help you fix it.

Consider this question for a moment. What does your daily to-do list contain? Is it sufficiently broken down into manageable tasks and tasks only? Can you realistically complete those tasks in a maximum of a couple of hours each?

If not, you may be making this mistake as well. And it may be drastically affecting your life.

How to Construct a Proper Daily To-Do List

A daily to-do list should be composed of small tasks that don’t take more than a couple of hours at most to complete. Otherwise, they have no place here.

This is where a lot of people go wrong. They use daily to-do lists as a reminder of the things they need to work on, but their use of lists ends there. They fail to ever separate the large projects on their lists from the small tasks they need to accomplish in the first place.

The result is often a major short-term focus, and is a huge reason why a lot of people in this world fail to think in a proactive fashion. They think a day at a time, and never a step ahead.

See, by not separating out your long-term goals and projects onto other forms of productivity documentation, the only list you’ll ever have is your daily list, which at this point is only a reminder of things to work on. It’s not being used in a productive fashion to help you achieve your goals.

Enter Your Long-Term Productivity Lists

See, a lot of people don’t realize that there are more types of lists than just a daily list that you can use to enhance your productivity. And not only will they enhance your productivity by allowing you to keep your to-do list more clean, but they’ll also allow you to be a much more of a long-term thinker, and will allow you to take control of your day rather than let your day control you.

Consider this structure of lists to arrange your productivity, rather than the typical “daily list only” approach that most people use:

  • The Master Goal List - Use a Master Goal list as a long-term list of 90 – 180 days to plan out what you want to accomplish in this time frame. What do you want to get done in the next 3 – 6 months? What are the things that are going to make a huge impact on your job or your life? These are the items that should go on your Master Goal List. This is the “What” and the “When” of what you want to accomplish.
  • The Weekly Project List - Use a Weekly Project list as a breakdown of the items on your Master Goal list. These items have a project focus as well, but are broken down into smaller subsets of the large items on your Master Goal list. This allows you to see what you need to work on from week to week to reach your goals and will allow you to start seeing how your daily schedule can be arranged.
  • Your Daily To-Do List – Then finally, use your Daily To-Do List to break down your Weekly Project List into small tasks that you can accomplish in just a couple of hours each. These tasks filter down from your other two lists to ultimately enable you to complete each project you wish to accomplish. Think of this list as the “How” of what you want to get done.

The Result?

It might seem a little strange to keep three lists, but look at what happens as the result.

Suddenly, with the creation of your long-term lists, your daily list starts to mean something. It becomes free of long-term projects and you only include the small tasks that you need to get done each day to allow you to complete your projects. You’ll start crossing off everything on your daily list every day.  Then you’ll relate those back to completing your projects and eventually your ultimate long-term goals.

The result is your daily to-do list goes from being just a dumping ground of everything you have to do, to being a key driver of your productivity and success.

And that’s the ultimate goal of “lifehacking” – to enable you to get things done!

(Photo credit: Crumpled Wads of Paper on Table via Shutterstock)

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