Create a Master List for Improved Productivity

Keeping a master list to-do list can improve your productivity, keep you focused and help you defeat overwhelm.

Why a Master To Do List is Important

Do you have many thoughts swirling around in your head? Is it hard for you to stay focused? Do you have trouble assessing what your priorities are?

A master list can help to solve all of these issues and more. Modern life is complicated and demanding. Having a simple list to refer to, help you prioritize, and a place to get all your tasks out of your head and onto paper can help you to feel more centered, clear, and in control.

  • Focus
  • Prioritize
  • Plan
  • Clarify the big picture
  • See progress

How Often Should You Revise Your To Do List

There is a difference between a master to-do list and other types of lists. Your master to-do list does not need to be revised as often as daily or weekly lists. That doesn’t mean you can’t add things as they come along, or as you think of them. In fact, that should be the main function of a to-do list, to get the mental clutter out of your brain and onto paper so you have more clarity and focus.

You should set a regular interval of time to review your master list, either the end of the month or the end of the quarter. It is also helpful to revise or revisit your master list whenever you feel overwhelmed or unfocused. Reviewing your master list can help to recenter your work, and give you fresh motivation to move forward with a renewed sense of purpose.

The best time to revise or write your daily to-do list is near the end of the day before. If your list is already set, in the morning, you know what you need to do and can start right away, instead of working through the pre-coffee fog to remember what was a priority. You may find that it is easier to remember what you still need to do when you are already in the flow, rather than trying to remember what needs to be done first thing in the morning. Your mind also will then know what tasks you need to do the next day, and may even work on them while you are sleeping.

Why a Can Do List Works Better for Some People

Some people are rebels. For rebels, when anyone (even themselves) tells them what to do, they will almost always immediately choose to do the opposite. Having a can-do list rather than a must-do list plays a little psychological trick. It allows you to choose if you want to do a task or not. If you are someone who has issues with authority but still wants to get things done, a can-do list may be your answer.

What to Include on Your Master to Do List

This may be a controversial choice, with some people saying to keep one list of everything, and others recommending one list for work and another for personal. Your needs can change depending on your stage of life. Someone who works in a law firm or corporate type job may need a separate list just for work. However, a freelancer who works from home might work better with one comprehensive list.

When you sit down to consider what you need to do, it helps to think about the areas of your life:

  • Self Care
  • Work
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Education
  • Vacation
  • Home Maintenance
  • Sports/Exercise
  • Hobbies and other Activities

Your list may be long, but each task should be specific and actionable. If you aren’t sure what the next step for a task should be, you can write down “think about what school to go to” or “explore vacation options”. Planning counts as a task and sometimes bigger goals need to be broken down into smaller steps to make them feel more achievable.

If you have a huge list of things to do, there are tips and tricks you can use, such as the rule of three to make your tasks more manageable. Choosing your three most important tasks off the master list and prioritizing them over lesser tasks allows you to be more focused. Even if you get one thing done a day, in a week you will have completed 7 important and substantial tasks.

Digital or Analog

Should Your List be Digital or Analog?

The important thing is to have a master list and to keep it in a place you can easily access. Whether you choose to use a phone app or a notebook to make your list is completely up to you. I like to keep my master and daily lists on paper, but use Google Calendar to schedule my tasks and block my time.

Which To Do List App is Best?

This is a hard question to answer. People often spend a lot of time searching for the perfect to-do list app, or a complicated way to organize their to-do list. Really, any method that gets what is in your head out and onto a list is the best one for you. The truth is, many of the new to-do list apps look nice, but they are overly complicated and sometimes are a distraction to getting real work done. If you already have a favorite electronic calendar, a list that can sync with your calendar can be a very effective choice. For example, if you use Google calendar, Google tasks is powerful enough for a simple weekly to-do list, and the integration with the calendar allows you to schedule tasks, with the result that they are more likely to get done.

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