To-do lists. Everyone in the world seems to be running on their own intensely private and personalized schedules that fifty years ago would have seemed insane, and even nowadays seems a bit beyond the pale. Let’s face it, organization is a key skill that everyone needs to possess these days.
So, how do the happy people do it? Those poised, serene and cheerful people who seem to glide through life, crossing item after item off their to-do lists and seeming to be at one with a mystical and never-ending source of joie de vivre.
As someone who’s coming to terms with the finer points of personal organization and the to-do list, I took a look at how happy people run, work and prioritize their to-do lists and found some fantastic tips and techniques which help them stay productive, calm, and most of all, happy people.
1. Start Early
Even if you’re not an early riser, make a habit of rising early. Not only will you feel a lot better with more under your belt by starting early, but are plenty of other side benefits that honestly make the early rise all the more important in terms of to-do list.
You’re more likely to experience silence and quiet times in the early morning, which will help you focus and channel your energies into getting your to-do list done while other people are still asleep.
2. Reward Yourself Often
Treat yourself throughout the day for getting stuff done. Filed all those reports? Go for a walk in the park. Finished that article or called your aunt? Treat yourself to a sweet treat for lunch.
Treating yourself often with special things you like offers a nice incentive to keep up the productivity without splurging and losing your productive state of mind. Plus it’s an awesome excuse for that sweet little something or indulgent purchase.
3. Tackle The Hardest Thing First
There’s generally one big task that can be the main focus of an entire day and it can seem daunting to even tackle it. It’s very easy to tackle all the smaller tasks and then save the big task for either later on when we’re less motivated, or save it for another day.
Therefore, go ahead and make it the first thing you tackle. When it’s out of the way, you’ll instantly feel on top of your stuff.
4. Factor In Procrastination Time
We all procrastinate. It’s fine – we all do it – but the key is stop letting your natural procrastination become a total drain on your time for that day.
Don’t overload your schedule if you know that you’re going to be scrolling through Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter throughout the day and know it’ll get in the way. That way you can enjoy your scrolling relatively guilt free.
5. Add Some Basic Things To The To-Do List
It’s a little psychological trick, but it’s one that’s sure to get you more motivated in the morning when you can look back and see a few things already crossed off.
Even if it’s something as simple as ‘have a morning shower’ or ‘remember to do some stretches in the morning,’ you’re kickstarting your progress and your day-to-day productivity improves.
6. Add Some Silly Things Too
Be whimsical. Be funny. Go ahead and add the fun things you want to do that day and incorporate them into your to-do list. Life is short, and this will help you to make each day much more enjoyable.
Schedule a one-person dance party or going to an ice cream parlor or a karaoke session. Having fun should always be part of your day, and this little technique will make your to-do lists more interesting and give you a boost.
7. Look To The Weather
The weather is pretty unpredictable, so planning ahead for whatever that comes your way might well be part of what makes a day great. If it’s going to rain, make time to chill out in a cafe with a good book, some tea and a treat. If it’s sunny, go and lay out to get a tan or grab an ice cream in the sunshine.
Find time to kick a big patch of leaves in the autumn or stock up on hot chocolate and good movies for the winter. The weather can affect us and our daily lists, so make sure to keep an eye out for what’s coming ahead climate-wise and save some room for fun to-do list activities.
8. Break It Down Into Categories
One great way of tackling your to-do list is to break it all down into categories and sub-categories.
Happy people do this to help themselves see the wider picture; each task seems more achievable when it’s broken down into segments you can conquer one at a time. Your to-do list and your commitments will all look much more doable once you’ve boiled them down to the smallest possible tasks.
9. Make Sure You Have Time For Replenishment
Human beings, someone wise once paraphrased, need to be restored, replenished and rejuvenated on a daily basis. The art of self-care has to be part of any successful person’s to-do list.
Happy people are generally happier because they make sure to keep this kind of self-care a part of their daily lives. Make sure you schedule in time for some me-time, and the rejuvenation you feel will make you tackle the rest of your to-do list with renewed vigor.
10. Do It To Music
Music is a great motivator, and nothing can spur us along more than having our own custom soundtrack blasting through our ears and giving us a much-needed boost to get through our tasks.
Go ahead and create custom playlists for certain situations: big, bold and confidence-boosting tracks for when the tasks you’re doing are tough, and calm and serene for when you’re feeling cool and collected and on the top of the world.
11. Don’t Add Everything
If you’re a recovering perfectionist like me, it can be extremely hard not to fill your to-do list with daily chores, work duties, personal obligations and other tasks that don’t really need to be done that day.
Make sure you never go over a certain limit – a single page of A5 notebook paper, for example – lest you find yourself adding much more than you could ever do.
12. Go With The Flow
To-do lists are fantastic and all, but sometimes you just have to let them go. Having a to-do list every single day can be exhausting, and some days you just have to play things by ear and see what happens. Going with the flow can lead you to fantastic opportunities you might not have had the chance to do otherwise.
Let’s say you’re walking through your city, to-do list primed and ready, and you spot a fair going on. That to-do list will still be there when you’re done, but the fair won’t be.
Go ahead and experience what life has to offer and enjoy everything you can. Let go of the to-do list, even for one day a week. Otherwise you might find yourself trapped in a rut with a scrap of paper that controls you, rather than the other way around.