It’s not a secret, especially if you listen to the MakeWorkWork podcast, that I am an avid to-do list maker.
I use one task list app (Todoist) to run almost everything in my life. I recently reflected on how I keep my tasks organized and realized that there are several specific things I do to stay organized that I can pass along to anyone, regardless of the to-do list platform that they use. (Sad to report that these might be slightly less relevant if you are using pen and paper, though.) Here they are:
View only work tasks during the workday
Like I mentioned, I use Todoist for every part of my life: grocery lists, work tasks, podcast work, anything that comes up. I even used Todoist to plan my wedding. But during the workday, I don’t want to see all of the tasks I need to work on outside of work, I just want to focus on my work tasks that are due that day.
The way Todoist is set up, they have a few premade views that you can toggle through. One of them is tasks due today, and another is tasks due in the next 7 days.
Neither of those work if you don’t want to be distracted by tasks that aren’t related to work, which is the case for me.
Luckily, Todoist has filters so you can create custom filters depending on how you want to view your tasks. I set up two simple filters:
- Tasks for work that are due today; and
- Tasks for work that are due tomorrow
If you also use Todoist, here’s their post on filters so you can create your own.
Prioritize, for real
Another feature is the ability within Todoist to flag tasks as priority one, two, or three. While I could flag multiple tasks as priority one, that wouldn’t really help me decide what I need to work on first.
So, I use Todoist’s system every day to rank my top three priorities in order of importance, and then that’s the order I work on them in.
Usually, I try to tackle my most difficult task first, also known as ‘eat the frog’ from Mark Twain.
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”Mark Twain
That doesn’t always work out and sometimes I need to tackle a different task because something more urgent comes up, but on days when I can choose to start with the most difficult task from my list.
Tag everything, everything has a place
Most task lists will have a way to organize and tag tasks into categories or projects. Todoist uses the word projects for the different groups of tasks. While a project sounds short-term to me, I’ve organized my tasks into categories of life: work, personal, side projects.
It took me a while to land on this system. I used to create new categories as new work projects popped up and at one point had a really busy project list.
I’ve since reverted to try and get this list as minimal as possible both because that’s easier for me to remember and it’s nicer to look at when I’m glancing at my task list.
In Todoist, one feature that they have is called sections. So, within a project you can create sections that don’t create new projects. It’s just a way to organize tasks within a project. That’s been great for me making all of my lists more simple.
For example, I used to take all of the items I added to get at stores and separate them into different projects depending on the store. Now, I can just move them around in sections without needing to change the projects.
Automate what I can
The reason I use an app instead of pen and paper is that I can set reminders and automate things I want to happen weekly. This saves me a lot of time and it’s so reassuring that I’m not forgetting anything.
One of the things I have automated is recurring tasks. I have several tasks set to recur after I’ve completed them and on specific days. A few examples:
- I have a weekly 1:1 with my boss. An hour before our call, I have a reminder pop up to fill out our 1:1 doc ahead of time.
- I gather all of the Buffer media mentions weekly, I have a reminder set up to do this task every Monday.
Another thing I’ve automated is that I’ve connected the Amazon Echo’s around my house to a specific Todoist list because we use the Echo’s to add grocery items. So all of my grocery items get added to Todoist as well and I always have them on me.
Those are the core principles I use to stay organized. I’d love to see a photo of how your to-do list is organized! Subscribe to my newsletter if you’d like more content like this. :)