Life gets overwhelming when you have a whole bunch of tasks you could be doing or “should” be doing. This mental to do list takes up a lot of brain space that could be devoted to actually getting stuff done.

A long to do list can also be stressful because it’s hard to decide where to focus. By choosing to do one thing, you are automatically choosing not to do the other things, which creates stress about whether those other things will ever get done.

And as the cartoon below illustrates, Post-its are great, but they’re probably not gonna get the job done.

Strategy: a new kind of to do list

The folks at Mission Control Productivity have a method of making to do lists that could be life-changing. Just follow these steps:

Step One: Brain dump. Just write down everything you have to do or want to do, from the little nit-picky tasks to big lifelong goals.

Step Two: Rewrite the items from the brain dump, putting them into one of three lists:

  • List A: Things you will do in the next 2 weeks.
  • List B: Things you will do between 2 weeks and 6 months from now.
  • List C: Things you will not do until 6 months from now or beyond.

Step Three: Put the items from List A into existence. That means write in your calendar or assignment notebook when you will actually do each and every thing on that list.

Step Four: Any time a new task or goal comes to mind, write it on the appropriate list.

Step Five: Every two weeks, revisit the lists. Move things from list B over to List A.

Why it works

This system is powerful because you can rest easy knowing everything has been addressed and everything will get done. All you have to do is follow what your calendar says to do.

You can stay focused and stop wasting precious energy trying to remember things that you are not working on right now.

Tip: include everything

Don’t be shy about the brain dump in step one. Include everything, from all aspects of your life: academic, personal, and social. Include conversations you need to have, chores you need to do, steps you need to take toward your goals.

Everything from cleaning your room, to thanking your aunt for the birthday gift she sent in the mail, to writing an outline of an essay due in English, to going in to see your math teacher for extra help; all of it should be included.

Recommended Viewing

Check out this quick video from ASAP Science about scientifically researched techniques for improving productivity.