Do you write several to-do lists a day? Or find that your list is so long that it completely overwhelms you?

Often to-do lists can actually increase stress simply by the overwhelming number of tasks on them and the pressure to get through the whole list.

Well, here is a tried and tested method of using to-do lists in a way that can decrease stress and help you actually get to the important things (instead of procrastinating on the easy, less important tasks!).

1.     Write down everything you need or want to do

I really mean everything! You can include home and work tasks or just focus on one area of your life. From take out the rubbish to do the accounts, write a social media strategy to learn Spanish, anything that you might be holding in your mind, get it down on paper (or screen).

2.     Rate every task

Assign every task an A, B or C.

A = tasks that are very important and/or urgent

B = tasks that are important but not urgent

C = all other tasks

3.     Estimate how long each task will take.

Be realistic and jot down the predicted time that each task will take. I prefer to overestimate the time than underestimate it. It allows for a little bit of breathing space for unexpected hitches!

4.     Now to write the actual to-list.

How much time do you have today? Again, don’t fool yourself. Take into account any pre-scheduled or daily activities such as meetings and breaks, and calculate the time you have to dedicate to your to-do list. Then write the to-list by choosing urgent or important activities and matching the predicted time for each to your available time.

5.     Now here’s the key. You now have to write the NOT-to-do list.

This is key to reducing stress. Everything that is not on your to-do list needs to be put on your NOT-to-do list. More importantly, tasks that you know you might try and sneak in during the day — like booking a bus or ringing a client — need to go on there. Although this step might seem unnecessary, consciously deciding not to do everything is powerful and writing it down is even more so.

You simply can’t do it all, and too much pressure actually makes us less productive. Each day you can add to your lists and move things from the NOT-to-do list on to your to-do list. By keeping the lists updated, they take less time and ensure that you don’t forget tasks.

Some useful resources for you

Best note-taking apps

Happy list making!

If you enjoyed this post, please share with your followers, fans and friends on your favourite social media channel. I’d also love to hear your comments about successfully using a to do list. Don’t forget to sign up to stay in touch with the Executive Nation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jo Walker | Content Creator for Executive Support NZ Ltd. Jo is a Psychologist by training and an all-round go-getter! She is a fun-loving traveller and an adventurer who likes to get things done.

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