How to Write Actionable To Do Lists (and Why You Should)

To do lists are a big part of my planning routine.  They don't usually reside on my weekly pages (though there are exceptions to the rule!) because I like to write specific and actionable lists - so I break things down.  This requires extra space in my planner - either graph filler paper, extra inserts, or sticky notes.
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If you've ever looked at your planner and felt complete overwhelm, then an actionable to do list might be something you should focus on.

How to Write Actionable To-Do Lists

Brain Dump

First, you may find there's too much in your head to keep anything straight.  Make it a habit to brain dump all your thoughts & to do's into one master list somewhere in your planner.  This is going to be the place you turn to when you need to get it all out...it will be your master list (and it will be messy!).  Give yourself permission to get messy, scribble, and get it all out.  From here you can prioritize and even eliminate.  Refer to this list often - you will add to it and you will subtract from it, but you may also find you will eliminate the things that are either no longer important, not worth your time, or are unnecessary.

Get Specific

From your brain dump it is time to get specific.  Which projects are you working on?  Which big tasks can you see?  This is especially helpful if you're running something like a blog - instead of marking down write posts, get specific and write down exactly which posts need to be written.  Then you can, again, prioritize from there.  It may help to have a few different sections in your brain dump area - one master list, then other lists around certain areas of your life.  But don't make this too complicated.  Come up with a method that works that you can quickly refer to and fill in as time goes by.  Make it something you'll actually use.

3 Action Steps

Once you've prioritized your list - like outlined the specific posts you'd like to write on your blog - then you can get to the action steps.  I am a big fan of 3 action steps under each to-do.  This helps you realize exactly what needs to be done & shows you your progress as you move through the steps.  It also makes completing the whole task easier because you're seeing the bigger picture.  Once you get into this routine you can also start to see how certain actions over lap to other tasks and you're more likely to complete them out of habit!  It can be as simple as outlining laundry in your planner - wash, fold, put away.  For me seeing the steps means even if I haven't completed everything I can check my progress and feel more productive.

If your to-do is a bigger project you can make a project planning page in your planner to house everything that needs to be done.  For inspiration, check out my wedding planning video where I use the project planning pages to outline this big project!  I also use the project stickers from the Student Sticker Books when I need to plan out projects.  

Why You Should Write Actionable To-Do Lists

Short answer: because you get more done!

Actionable to do lists help us plan better.  They help us allot time in a more efficient way, help us prioritize tasks, and help us say no to things that won't or don't serve us.  Through actionable to-do lists we can meet ourselves where we are and eliminate overwhelm.  We can understand how long it takes us to complete tasks & that can help us estimate our abilities in the future.

When we're breaking up tasks into their moving parts we're seeing the bigger picture and are able to understand a timeline better...even if it's just a Sunday afternoon and we need to get laundry done for the week!

Ever since I started creating a plan of action rather than a running to do list, I've been able to get projects done on a better time line!  No parts are missed, nothing is left to the last minute, and there's nothing unexpected.  One of the best parts is being able to translate what I've learned from one project or task into another, similar task or project.  I've also sort of been able to create 'templates' of reoccurring tasks to help me in the future.

Want to find some printable planner inserts that can help organize your life?  Check out the Etsy shop here for A5 & Personal Size inserts. Or join the Printable of the Month Club over on Patreon for an exclusive printable each month!

How do you write to do lists?  What helps you get the most done?

xoxo, Moe

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