7 Types of To-Do Lists To Help You Work Smarter and Boost Productivity
If you're anything like me, you love making to-do lists. In fact, I bet you have a list for just about everything in your life - from groceries to to-do items, and even a bucket list of things you want to do someday.
There are different ways to keep track of your tasks, and what works best for you depends on your preference and lifestyle. Whether you choose analog or digital, there are endless benefits to keeping a to-do list. It can help you stay organized and productive, keep track of your goals, and even reduce stress. No one wants sleepless nights trying to remember what needs to be done the next day!
Here are 7 types of to-do lists to help you get started:
1. The Everything List - the Master of To-Do Lists
This is the most common type of to-do list, and it's pretty straightforward - just write down everything you need to do in one place. This method is perhaps less of a to-do list and more of a way to declutter your mind. It can be helpful if you have a lot of tasks to keep track of but don't need to prioritize them.
Write all your tasks on a to-do list notepad - my preferred option is always paper. Unlike digital apps, I get a great sense of achievement physically ticking off my tasks. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of daily planner pads check out my previous blog on this subject.
The goal of a brain dump is to get all of the thoughts and ideas floating around in your head down on paper. These types of to-do lists can help to reduce stress and clear your mind so that you can focus on completing your tasks.
Simply set a timer for 5-10 minutes and write down everything that's on your mind - no matter how big or small. Once the timer goes off, take a look at your list and see what tasks you can delegate, schedule, or eliminate altogether.
2. The Structured and Prioritised List
If you have a lot of tasks to complete and need to prioritise them, this type of to-do list is for you. This list uses the Everything List as a basis to structure and prioritise what needs doing. This ensures that you are focusing on the right activities.
Structured lists help you to break down your tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. For each task, you'll need to assign it a priority level - this will ensure that you focus on the most important tasks first. One way to do this is the Ivy Lee Method.
To create a structured and prioritised to-do list, follow these 4 simple steps:
- At the end of each day, write down 6 tasks you need to complete the following day
- Number these tasks in order of importance, with the most important task being number 1
- Only work on the tasks on your list for the day - if you don't finish everything on your list, don't worry! Just move unfinished items to the following day's list
- Repeat this process every day
The key to making this method work is to be realistic about how many tasks you can complete in a day. If you try to pack too much into one day, it will become unachievable. Remember to account for breaks in your day!
3. The Time-Blocked List List
This type of to-do list is perfect for people who like to plan their time in advance. To create a time-blocked list, start by slotting in fixed appointments and commitments (like meetings, doctor's appointments, etc.). Then, estimate how long each of your remaining tasks will take to complete and block out the necessary time.
For example, if you need to put together a presentation, you might block out 2 hours in your calendar. Once you've blocked out time for all of your tasks, add in some buffer time in case something takes longer than expected. This will help to ensure that you don't get behind on your to-dos.
Deep Work - Ability to Focus
This method is similar to the deep work idea - this is when you allocate uninterrupted time to focus on a task, for example, a tight deadline or a complex activity to work on. It increases productivity as you are only focused on a particular priority at one time. Turn off your phone notifications and see if this method works for you.
Our daily planner notepads with time slots are perfect for this method. With hourly interval slots, you have plenty of space to plan out your day.
4. The Delegated List
Some to-do lists exist to reduce your workload; the delegate list is one of them. If you have a lot on your plate and need to get help from others to complete your tasks, this type of to-do list is for you. Jot down all the tasks that can be delegated to a colleague, friend, or family member.
When creating this list, be specific about what needs to be done and to who you are delegating it to. This will ensure that the task gets done and reduces the likelihood of miscommunication.
5. The One Week In Advance List
This type of to-do list is perfect for people who like to plan their week in advance (i.e. the super planners). On Sunday, take some time to sit down and plan out your week. Write down everything you need to do, both personal and work. Build in time for breaks and checking emails (this is a real time drain so make sure you account for it).
Schedule a check-in mid-week to see how you are tracking against your plan. If you have fallen behind (perhaps a task has taken longer than expected or a new urgent request has trumped your existing to-dos) adjust the plan.
Remember your personal tasks are just as important as your work ones so try and keep a good balance when prioritising your time.
6. The Rewards List
This is my favourite type of to-do list. It is designed to help you stay motivated by rewarding yourself for completing tasks. Give yourself a small reward for each task you complete. This could be something like listening to a podcast, watching your favourite Netflix show, or going for a walk with your dog. Ensure the rewards are small enough that they don't derail your productivity. A big reward for completing a task can actually end up being more of a distraction than anything else.
The key to making this method work is to make sure that your rewards are proportional to the task. If you finish a big project, give yourself a bigger reward than if you just completed a small task.
Note: a combination of to-do lists can be better for certain situations - e.g. a reward list can be combined with the time-blocked list. A couple of hours of dedicated focus time does deserve a treat!
7. The Long-Term Vision List
But what about a long-term list? A Long Term Vision List is a list of things that you want to accomplish over the next year, five years, or even ten years. Sure, it may seem daunting to think that far ahead, but trust me, it's worth it.
Having a long-term list gives you something to strive for and keeps you motivated to stay on track.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas to inspire you:
- Complete a degree or further your education
- Be your own boss
- Buy a house
- Travel the world
- Have a family
- Live abroad
- Build an investment portfolio
- Save enough to retire
You can also reflect your list visually - this can be really fun, just make sure you don't go into a Pinterest rabbit hole (we have all been there).
The possibilities are endless! So what are you waiting for? Start brainstorming and get those long-term goals down on paper.
Refer to this Vision List regularly, especially on tough days, it can be a great motivator and a reminder of the bigger picture.
And there you have it! 7 different types of to-do lists to help you get organised, manage your time and achieve your goals. Depending on what the goal is, you may want to flex the type of list you create and may even find a combined version that works for you.
Ready to start but need a new daily planner pad for all your to-do lists? Organise your daily and weekly schedules with our daily planners.
Which list is your favourite? Do you use multiple styles of to-do lists? Let us know in the comments below.