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How to Make a Useful To-Do List

Linda (Kaywood) Bilyeu is a self-published author. Her books are available on Amazon. She writes from the heart—there is no other way.

Could Creating Lists Be Genetic?

Most of us thrive on to-do lists. For those who don't need them, I applaud you, or pity you, you decide after you're done reading this article.

I, for one, can't survive without a list. I've been creating lists since I was old enough to write. I used to create lists about which books I wanted to read or which adventure I'd probably get grounded for.

Lists keep me sane, well depending on your interpretation of sane. To-Do lists help my life run more smoothly.

Could list keeping be genetic? I must have been doing something right all along because my daughters create lists. Even my granddaughter who is six years old is beginning to write lists. Granted, only she could understand them, but that's OK at least we're keeping it in the family.

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To Do Or Not To Do

On your mark, get set, go...

The most important thing to remember about creating a to-do list is remembering where you placed your list. How many of you spent time writing a list and then misplaced it? I have done that countless times. If all else fails you could always write your to-do list on your arm, but that might appear a bit odd. Unless you like odd, then by all means go right ahead.

Regardless, it's imperative that your list is conveniently placed within hands reach so you could jot down things to add before you forget them. You could also have more than one list and combine them as needed.

I keep a paper list on my desk. I also send myself email reminders on my iPhone. I also have post-its scattered about the house and car. I also use a dry erase board. I did mention I am the queen of lists, didn't I? Eventually all my lists mate and create one big happy family of tasks that need to be accomplished.

You could also create a to-do list with invisible ink, which means you'll never have a to-do list. The choice is always yours, but keep in mind the chores will eventually catch up with you and someone's going to have some work to do.

Does The To Do List Ever End?

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The To Do list

Whether you refer to your list as a to-do list or a honey-do list it's important that the tasks are completed no matter who is tending to the to-do.

Organization is of utmost importance. If you lack the skill of organizing chances are your to-do list might not be a success, but fret not, you still have hope. Being organized is something you could teach yourself in time. This practice requires patience and concentration, if you lack either of those then I just suggest you hire a professional to-do lister. Seriously, you do still have hope.

I tend to tackle the most difficult or lengthiest tasks first. As I progress down the list the simpliest is usually the final challenge for the day, or week, or month depending on how long it takes you to complete your list.

Number your list with the top ten tasks. Laundry, floors, cleaning out closets or dusting are simple tasks that could be done anytime of the day or night. I would add those towards the bottom of the list.

Doctor or dental appointment, bank transactions, post office runs are more daytime errands so tackle those during the 9-5 hours. These should be at the top of the list. If you dread grocery shopping as much as I do, I suggest you tend to this task during the week and try to skip weekends when stores are their busiest.

Be realistic when creating your list. Don't set yourself up for failure. Set priorities as to which tasks need to be completed accordingly. There is a difference between tasks, goals and projects. A to-do list is for tasks that are manageable in a timely manner.

Only add manageable tasks to your list. If you consistently notice the same task repeatedly on your list chances are that task is never going to get done so either hire someone to do it, or forget about it.

Remember The Milk is an online to-do list task manager. This is an excellent tool for someone who tends to be forgetful. Besides never being blamed for forgetting the milk again, you'll have reminders popping up on your computer screen. It's used by millions worldwide and is accessible from smartphones also.

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If you are prone to lose your paper list, have you considered purchasing a dry erase board? Keep a few dry erase markers nearby and continue to add and erase to your list. I guarantee you won't misplace this list, unless your board has wings and could fly. Teach your family members to add and delete tasks also. Give gift certificates as bonus prizes to whichever family member completes the most chores.

Enlist the help of family members to run errands. Better yet, hire a person to run errands for you. The Errand Runner could tend to the mundane tasks that occupy a chunk of your time. This person could be a neighbor or friend.

If you have a smartphone you could send yourself reminder messages as to when a task should be completed. An alarm will go off at your specifically set time to remind you to get it done. iPhone has an application called Things that could help you manage your tasks. You might want to consider this app if you have $9.99 to spare.

Allow your creative mind to expand and explore. Add some exciting incentives to your list as rewards for a job well done. A manicure, going to a movie, a bubble bath, a cold beer, an afternoon nap are all tokens of appreciation to bestow upon yourself after completion of a task or two.

I strongly suggest having a positive attitude before you begin your mission. What fun would it be if you dread tackling your list and have a bad attitude? Consider it a fun challenge. Yes, work could be entertaining. I've always found ways to add excitement to any task I do. Even if the majority of the time I'm laughing at myself for making mistakes, but I still found the humor in it.

There are always ways to make your list a bit easier. Most of the time. Give yourself an acceptable amount of time to complete the list. Don't make it harder then it might otherwise be.

Another idea is to tackle just one task per day. You don't have to run yourself ragged trying to do everything at once. As long as you feel you've accomplished something that's what counts.

Be specific with your tasks to complete. Painting your home should never be on a to-do list. That's a project. Painting a wall or cleaning baseboards is a task.

Be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day and chances are your list won't be completed in a day either.

As you complete each chore check it off your list and give yourself an atta girl or boy. Before you know it your list will begin to dwindle down and you'll be done.