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5 Practical Ways to Make Your To-Do List Work

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5 Practical Ways to Make Your To-Do List Work

Your to-do list is the heart and mind of your daily work; it works like your personal assistant, or rather your own private Boss who tells what you should do and when you should do it. Without a written to-do list, you get stressed, you lose time, and you end up being unproductive and inefficient.

Therefore, to free up your brain, you have to make a clear and efficient to-do list. Think of it like your external brain, and start imagining how you can arrange it to make it as powerful as possible.

Find the right tool

The very first thing you have to do is to find the right tool to manage your to-do list. I highly recommend that you use an online task management application because they’re flexible, sharable, and they’ve already proven their efficiency in terms of productivity. Plus, most task management applications give you the opportunity to add content and due dates to your tasks, to delegate work, and to collaborate with your teammates.

Forget using post-its, whiteboards and paper to-do lists. You won’t be able to do anything efficiently with a to-do list written on a piece of paper.

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Organize and Prioritize

tasks list

    Once you’ve picked the right application for your to-do list, you need to organize your tasks. Your to-do list should be easy and practical to use.

    To get organized, you should first make sure that you only add the tasks that you’re actually going to work on in a reasonable amount of time. So if something you’re working on is complex, you should break it down into smaller tasks.

    Secondly, you need to prioritize your tasks. Always put the most important tasks at the top of your list. Prioritizing your tasks helps you focus on the most urgent/important things you have to get done.

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    Add content

    task content

      After you create a task, you’ll need to enrich it by adding content so that when you’re ready, you’ll have all the resources you need to start working. Think of it like cooking: you first need to gather and prepare all the ingredients before you turn the oven on, right?!

      A task’s content can be anything you need, like a document, a note, an email, a link, a description or a list of subtasks. It’s all about adding everything you need to complete your work.

      Don’t forget that your to-do list is your personal assistant, and that the role of a personal assistant is to give you a maximum amount of information so you can do whatever it is you have to do easily.

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      Besides, adding content to your to-do list helps you focus on your work so your workflow can be easily managed.

      Keep it short

      If you have too many tasks on your to-do list, you might feel overwhelmed before you even get started. To be efficient, your to-do list needs to be doable. In other words, it needs to be short so that you’re subconsciously motivated to start working.

      If your to-do list is too long, move your tasks to another day or week. The objective is to have a clear picture on what you have to do, and can do, today. Tomorrow is another day, and you don’t need to have those tasks in today’s field of vision.

      Some people say to keep your to-do list under 20 tasks, and others say no more than 3. It really isn’t a matter of numbers, but rather the nature of your tasks. Some things take a few minutes to get done, others hours. You need to feel comfortable with the size of your to-do list and be able to tell yourself, “I can definitely get all of this done today”.

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      Make it collaborative

      The more we are, the merrier we will be, right? The same theory works with your to-do list.  If you keep it to yourself, you’ll have a harder time accomplishing your tasks.

      Therefore, when you’re choosing a task management app, you should make sure it’s collaborative. That way, you’ll be able to share ideas and get in sync with your coworkers. The idea is to get your teammates involved in your tasks and accomplish your work faster. If every member of your team is on the same page and using the the same information, your to-do list will work almost all by itself.

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      Last Updated on September 9, 2021

      10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

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      10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

      Productivity planners and journals are tools of a trade. There’s an art to productivity. Just like art is very personal to the artist, productivity is very personal to the person. What works for you may not work for me. This is an important distinction if you really want get more done in less time.

      Too many of us dabble in productivity hacks only to move on to the next tool or trend when it didn’t workout for us, missing the lesson of what worked and didn’t work about that tool or trend.

      We put the tool on a pedestal and miss the art. It’s worshipping the paint brush rather than the process and act of painting. We miss the art of our own productivity when the tool overshadows the treasure.

      As an artist, you have many brushes to choose from. You’re looking for a brush that feels best in your hand. You want a brush that doesn’t distract you from your art but partners with you to create the many things you see in your mind to create. Finding a brush like this may take some experimenting, but when you understand that the role of the brush is to bring life to your vision, it’s easier to find the right brush.

      Planners are the same way. You want a productivity journal that supports you in the creation of your vision, not one that bogs you down or steals your energy.

      Let’s dive into the 10 best productivity planners and journals to help you get more done in less time.

      1. The One Thing Planner

      The NY Times best selling book, The One Thing, just released their new planner. If you loved this book, you’ll love this planner.

      As the founder of the world’s largest real estate company Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller, has mastered the art of focus. The One Thing planner has its roots in industry changing productivity. If you’re out to put a dent in the universe, this may be the planner for you.

      Get the planner here!

      2. The Full Life Planner

      The Full Life Planner is Lifehacks’ ultimate planning system to get results across all your core life aspects including work, health and relationships. This smart planner is 15 years of Lifehack’s best practices and proven success formulas by top performers.

      With the Full Life Planner, you can align your actions to long term milestones every day, week, and month consistently. This will help you to get more done and achieve your goals.

      Get the planner here!

      3. The Freedom Journal

      Creator of one of the most prolific podcasts ever, Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas released his productivity journal in 2016. This hard-cover journal focuses on accomplishing SMART goals in 100 days.

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      From their site:

      “The Freedom Journal is an accountability partner that won’t let you fail. John Lee Dumas has interviewed over 2000 successful Entrepreneurs and has created a unique step-by-step process that will guide you in SETTING and ACCOMPLISHING your #1 goal in 100 days.”

      Get the planner here!

      4. Full Focus Planner

      Michael Hyatt, author of Platform and host of the podcast “This is Your Life”, also has his own planner called the Full Focus Planner.

      From the site:

      “Built for a 90-day achievement cycle, the Full Focus Planner® gives you a quarter of a year’s content so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning (and tracking) 12 months at a time.”

      This productivity planner includes a place for annual goals, a monthly calendar, quarterly planning, the ideal week, daily pages, a place for rituals, weekly preview and quarterly previews. It also comes with a Quickstart lessons to help you master the use of the planner.

      Get the planner here!

      5. Passion Planner

      They call themselves the #pashfam and think of their planner as a “paper life coach”. Their formats include dated, academic and undated in hardbound journals with assorted colors. With over 600,000 users they have a track record for effective planners.

      From the site:

      “An appointment calendar, goal setting guide, journal, sketchbook, gratitude log & personal and work to-do lists all in one notebook.”

      They have a get-one give-one program. For every Passion Planner that is bought they will donate one to a student or someone in need.

      They also provide free PDF downloads of their planners. This is a great way to test drive if their planner is right for you.

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      Get the planner here!

      6. Desire Map Planners

      If you’re looking for a more spiritually oriented planner, Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, created the Desire Map Planners. With Daily planners, Weekly planners and Undated planners you can find the right fit for you.

      Behind this planner is the Desire Map Planner Program including 3 workbooks that not only support you in using the planners but guide you in your thought process about your life and intentions you’re using the planner to help you fulfill.

      Get the planner here!

      7. Franklin Covey Planners

      The grandfather of all planners, Franklin Covey, has the most options when it comes to layouts, binders, and accessories. With over 30 years in the productivity planner business, they not only provide a ton of planner layouts, they also have been teaching productivity and planning from the beginning.

      From the site:

      “Achieve what matters most with innovative, high quality planners and binders tailored to your personal style. Our paper planning system guides you to identify values, create successful habits, and track and achieve your goals.”

      Get the planner here!

      8. Productivity Planner

      From the makers of the best selling journal backed by Tim Ferriss, “The Five Minute Journal”, comes the Productivity Planner.

      Combining the Ivy Lee method which made Charles Schwab millions with the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused in the moment, the Productivity Planner is both intelligent and effective.

      It allows for six months of planning, 5-day daily pages, weekly planning and weekly review, a prioritized task list, Pomodoro time tracking, and extra space for notes.

      From the site:

      “Do you often find yourself busy, while more important tasks get procrastinated on? The Productivity Planner helps you prioritize and accomplish the vital few tasks that make your day satisfying. Quality over quantity. Combined with the Pomodoro Technique to help you avoid distractions, the Productivity Planner assists you to get better work done in less time.”

      Get the planner here!

      9. Self Journal

      Endorsed by Daymond John of Shark Tank, the Self Journal takes a 13 week approach and combines Monthly, Weekly and Daily planning to help you stay focused on the things that really matter.

      Self Journal includes additional tools to help you produce with their Weekly Action Pad, Project Action Pad, the Sidekick pocket journal to capture your ideas on the go and their SmartMarks bookmarks that act as a notepad while you’re reading.

      Get the planner here!

      10. Google Calendar

      You may already use Google Calendar for appointments, but with a couple tweaks you can use it as a productivity planner.

      Productivity assumes we have time to do the work we intend to do. So blocking time on your Google Calendar and designating it as “busy” will prevent others from filling up those spaces on your calendar. Actually using those blocks of time as you intended is up to you.

      If you use a booking tool like Schedule Once or Calendly, you can integrate it with your Google Calendar. For maximum productivity and rhythm, I recommend creating a consistent “available” block of time each day for these kinds of appointments.

      Google Calendar is free, web based and to the point. If you’re a bottom line person and easily hold your priorities in your head, this may be a good solution for you.

      Get the planner here!

      Bonus Advice: Integrate the 4 Building Blocks of Productivity

      Just as important to productivity planners as the tool are the principles that we create inside of. There are 4 building blocks of productivity, that when embraced, accelerate your energy and results.

      The four building blocks of productivity are desire, strategy, focus and rhythm. When you get these right, having a productivity planner or journal provides the structure to keep you on track.

      Block #1: Desire

      Somehow in the pursuit of all our goals, we accumulate ideas and To-Do’s we’re not actually passionate about and don’t really want to pursue. They sneak their way in and steal our focus from the things that really matter.

      Underneath powerful productivity is desire. Not many little desires, but the overarching mother of desires. The desire you feel in your gut, the desire that comes from your soul, not your logic, is what you need to tap into if you want to level up your productivity.

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      A productivity planner is just a distraction if you’re not clear on what it’s all for. With desire, however, your productivity planner provides the guide rails to accomplish your intentions.

      Block #2: Strategy

      Once you’re clear on your overarching desire, you need to organize your steps to get there. Let’s call this “strategy”. Strategy is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. You must first turn over all the pieces to see patterns, colors, connections and find borders.

      In business and life, we often start trying to put our “puzzle” together without turning over all the pieces. We put many items on our To-Do lists and clog our planners with things that aren’t important to the bigger picture of our puzzle.

      Strategy is about taking the time to brain dump all the things in your head related to your goal and then looking for patterns and priorities. As you turn over these puzzle pieces, you’ll begin to see the more important tasks that take care of the less important tasks or make the less important tasks irrelevant.

      In the best selling book, The One Thing, the focusing question they teach is:

      “What’s the One thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary?”

      This is the heart of strategy and organizing what hits your planner and what doesn’t.

      Block #3: Focus

      With your priorities identified, now you can focus on the One Thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary. This is where your productivity planners and journals help you hold the line.

      Because you’ve already turned over the puzzle pieces, you aren’t distracted by new shiny objects. If new ideas come along, and they will, you will better see how and where they fit in the big picture of your desire and strategy, allowing you to go back and focus on your One Thing.

      Block #4: Rhythm

      The final building block of productivity is rhythm. There is a rhythm in life and work that works best for you. When you find this rhythm, time stands still, productivity is easy and your experience of work is joyful.

      Some call this flow. As you hone your self-awareness about your ideal rhythm you will find yourself riding flow more often and owning your productivity.

      Without these four building blocks of productivity, you’re like a painter with a paintbrush and no idea how to use it to create what’s in your heart to create. But harness these four building blocks and find yourself getting more done in less time.

      The Bottom Line

      Your life is your art. Everyday you have a chance to create something amazing. By understanding and using the four building blocks of productivity, you will set yourself up for success no matter which planner, or “paintbrush”, you choose to use.

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      As you experiment with different planners you will narrow which one is best for you and accelerate your path to putting a dent in the universe.

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      Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

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