We all know that feeling; we wake up one day and decide that yes, today is the day. The day we finally become productive. We get out our note pads, pen raised in hand, and write our to-do list. As we’re writing, seeing the list get longer and longer and longer, we begin to feel a chill running up our spines, a creeping panic sets in, growing stronger with each item we write. Seeing this awful long list we feel stressed and exhausted before we’ve even begun to tick them off, so promptly throw the note book across the other side of the room, and resolve to simply hope for the best.
BUT what if there was a way to make to-do lists managable, and dare I say it, fun?
This magical technique that I’ve develloped is called the ‘five collumb approach’, and it’s a sure-fire way to get you motivated, less stressed, and ready to take on the world.
Most to-do lists look a little like this:
- Tidy room
- Send package back
- Book venue for Anna’s party
- Buy milk
- Write article
- Write essay
Full of unspecific, dull and drab jobs. Looking at that list I already feel a sense of resignation and apathy.
Instead, what I am proposing is to split these jobs into five different collumbs; chores, work, lifemin, productivity, for me.
Chores are things to do around the house like cleaning, buying groceries, or finally attempting the washing up.
Work is the stuff that you need to do for your job or for your education like set reading, essays, booking important meetings and the like.
Lifemin (short for ‘life admin’) are things like E-mails, taxes etc.
Productivity is everything that you want to do, but that’s not in your official work remit; these are things like extra classes, writing a book, or starting a side-business.
For me may seem like an unusual category, but it shouldn’t be. This part of the to-do list is all the things that day that you’re going to do to relax, unwind, and take care of yourself; having a bath, watching an hour of Netflix, doing some exercise, seeing a friend.
With all of these, it’s important to really get specific. Part of the to-do list trap is writing vague goals such as ‘clean house’ or ‘Send E-mails’ – we see the huge vagueness of the task, and automatically get overwhelmed.
Yes, breaking it down has the percieved negative of adding more things to the list, but this disadvantage is vastly outweighed by the smaller, baby steps that make up a larger task.
So, with this process, your to-do list should look a little more like this:
- Clean Desk
- Do laundry
- Hoover the hallway
- Wash up
- Write the introduction and two paragraphs of my politics essay
- Read two chapters of Kant
- File my tax return
- E-mail Jordan
- E-mail Sally
- Write article on Universal Basic Income
- Have a drink with Tom
- Order a copy of The Alchamist
Although the list is longer, these smaller chunks mean that tasks don’t seem so monumental, meaning that you can tick them off with ease. Seeing more ticks means you’ll have more motivation to finish or continue with the list. Rather than seeing ‘write essay’ which seems to be a huge task, seeing that you only have to do a couple of paragraphs that day appears far more managable and less overwhelming.
However, the fun doesn’t end there. The next part is crucial.
Once you’ve got your list, go through and highlight what you feel that day you can-do. So, if you’re not feeling so great, and think you won’t have the energy to both do all the chores and your work, then you can prioritise work, and let the chores carry over to the next day. With this kind of to-do list, at least you’ll have your tasks written down, so you know eventually what has to be done, even if you don’t manage it all in one day.
You can find a detailed guide on can-do lists here.
The added bonus of having a section just for you means that self-care and doing things that make you happy will filter into your brain as being just as important and worth while as other ‘productive’ tasks.
To-do lists can be scary, but they don’t have to be! Even if your to-do list only says one thing: get out of bed, they are a worthwhile endeavour.