How to Design a To-do List that Inspires You?

Ever had a to-do list that utterly bored you? Or a to-do list filled with halfway completed tasks? You…

  • wonder why you wrote a to-do list in the first place.
  • take a look at your pending tasks for the day and realize how uninspiring they are.
  • don't feel the urge nor the motivation to accomplish them.

Those factors leave you in a vicious cycle of constant procrastination.

Since you put off your tasks, they pile up, until one day you find yourself staring at 20 pending tasks. All in a single day!

But there is a way to make the most of your to-do list.

A design that can help you to exceedingly accomplish your tasks.

It starts by discovering your 5 tasks for the day.

to do list, do, list, Design a To-do List that Inspires You

Why 5 Tasks?

There's only so much you can humanly do in a day. You don't want to have a to-do list with 20 tasks because it's difficult, even excruciating, to achieve them all.

In addition, they'll wear you down and sap all of the productive energy you have, leaving you both physically and mentally fatigued.

The problem with extreme fatigue is that it never really heals. Part of the fatigue will follow you tomorrow, which remember, has its own 20 tasks to be done. You won't execute them effectively because your energy levels aren't 100%.

On the other hand, having a lot of tasks on your to-do list splits up your attention. You can't give one task too much time because 19 others are waiting to be achieved.

So you give each task the least amount of time, and if it it can't be achieved, it's put off for another day.

If you suffer from having a to-do list with dozens of tasks, it's time to eliminate them. It's time to choose from that list the 5 most important tasks of the day.

To do that, you need a criteria. You need to select your:

  1. Most challenging task
  2. Medium task
  3. Three small tasks

Your Most Challenging Task

As its name suggests, it's the most demanding task you're going to do for the day.

Ideally, it should be the first task that starts off your day. According to author Brian Tracy, this is what he calls eating the frog. It basically means that you start your day by doing and accomplishing your most difficult task of the day.

In short, work on this task early in the morning.

There are advantages for having a morning routine. The one I'll mention for this post is having the extra time to do this kind of task.

This time is special, maybe even sacred. It's the time wholly dedicated to your most challenging task. Since you're well rested from the night's sleep, you also have the energy to execute it.

Imagine having an extra 1 or 2 hours for your challenging task. And you finish it before embarking on your day job. Wouldn't that be awesome?

That's what a morning routine can do for you. It gives you the time and space to execute it.

Let me use an example.

Let's say you're a writer but you have a day job that doesn't permit you to write. This job leaves you completely exhausted, hence you can't use your night time to write.

You've been putting off writing your novel for far too long. You've thought about having a morning routine but waking up early is a problem.

But since you consider yourself a novelist, you decide to give it a go. You wake up an hour earlier than your normal time and start writing the first chapter.

You break up the hour into pomodoros to ensure the most productive use of your time. When the hour ends, you feel satisfied. Even though you haven't finished the chapter, you have made progress. And that's what matters.

Your challenging task can be anything. It could be:

  • Practicing a musical instrument, 
  • A daily 5 km run, 
  • Working on your side of the business, 
  • Learning a new language, etc.

Discover what your most challenging task is and start working on it first thing in the morning.

Qualities of the Most Challenging task

  • It's the most demanding task of the day.
  • It requires sufficient attention to achieve it.
  • It needs enough time to be properly executed.
  • It has big rewards once attained.
  • It could be a life goal, your passion or a productive habit you're trying to foster.

Your Medium Task

This is the task that comes after the challenging one. It could be a small subset of your challenging task or its own task entirely.

It still requires enough time and attention to be executed, but not as much as your challenging task.

Your medium task should be performed after you are done with your challenging task. We're sticking to the 'Eat the Frog' principle. It should also be done during the normal morning hours.

It could be an office task, an urgent errand or anything you consider a moderate task to you.

Qualities of the Medium task

  • It is demanding, but not as much as your challenging task.
  • It requires attention to achieve it.
  • It needs enough time to be properly executed.
  • It does have rewards once attained, but not always.
  • It could be tied to your challenging task or can be its own proper task.

Your 3 Small Tasks

These are your normal, everyday chores. They're mostly effortless and don't take too much time to achieve.

They could be house, office or fitness chores that you've done so many times that you don't necessarily see them as chores.

Instead of bombarding your to-do list with 10 small tasks, qualify for only 3. You'll not only perform them optimally but also save yourself a ton of time and energy.

Qualities of Small tasks

  • They are normal, everyday tasks. You could consider them as chores.
  • They don't need a lot of energy to be performed because they're effortless tasks.
  • They can be done quickly because of repetition and experience.

Your energy is a scarce resource

It's true, isn't it? You and I both know that we can't always perform optimally every single hour of the day. You're more energetic and enthusiastic in the morning while in the evening you're more lethargic and lazy.

But what you can do is perform exceedingly well for a few select hours of the day. The hours dedicated to your 5 tasks of the day.

Since you are more vibrant and refreshed in the morning, perform your challenging task first. Give it your best shot for 1 or 2 hours, and if you're not through with it, do it the next day at the same time.

Next, work on your medium task for the duration you grant it. As the day progresses on, start working on your 3 small tasks. 

Of the 3, finish your productive day by attaining the easiest small task and cross off your to-do list. You've just accomplished your 5 tasks of the day.

Before you go to sleep, set aside a few minutes to write the 5 pending tasks for tomorrow.

Summary of this article

  • Discover the 5 tasks for the day. Eliminate the ones that don't qualify on your to-do list.
  • Write those tasks in a descending manner, from the most challenging to the most effortless.
  • Because your time, energy and attention are precious and scarce, use the early morning hours to work on your most challenging task.
  • As your day ends and fatigue starts creeping in, accomplish your easiest task and cross off your to-do list.
  • Take a few minutes before bed to write the next 5 tasks for the upcoming day. 
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique to supercharge your work output.

The Takeaway

Your to-do list shouldn't be swamped with endless uninspiring tasks. Simply eliminate the ones that don't make it to the top 5 tasks and schedule them for a later time.

Since your energy and enthusiasm wanes as the day progresses, ensure you kick-start your day with the most demanding task and finish with the easiest.

A well organized, realistic to-do list immensely helps in the battle against procrastination. 

Start organizing yours today.