How To Make Effective To-Do Lists (That You Will Tick Off!)

Writing daily to-do lists has completely changed the way I approach productivity, and I don’t know where I would be without my handy lists. After 4-5 years of consistently using this method, I have found my own preferred way to write to-do lists. Now, it might sound stupidly obvious: just write down what you need to get done. But to prevent feeling overwhelmed, you have establish a good to-do list writing method. In this post I’ll be sharing my top tips to creating to-do lists that you will actually complete. 

Write a Huge Master To-Do List

Let us first establish everything you need to do. Absolutely everything: short term, long term, even tasks with no timeline. Empty all of the things you need to get done out of your brain and into a digital Notes app: such as the one that comes free with iPhone. This might take a long time, but believe me, we’ll create direction to them later.

Draw Out a Week at a Glance

I do this in my bullet journal, on to spreads that look like this. Just a box every day for seven days. Now, this is where you master to-do list comes in, write down the time limited tasks into the appropriate boxes. So if you have an assignment due on Wednesday, but ‘submit assignment’ into your box allocated to Wednesday. Also make sure you do this timetabling in a place that you will reference and look at throughout the week. There is no point writing it in a bullet journal is that notebook stays shut on your desk all week. Whatever works for you, plan there. And it doesn’t have to be fancy! 

And also, once writing time limited tasks into your boxes, remove them or tick them off your master to-do list.

Work Backwards 

You have put all of your tasks-with-deadlines in the correct boxes. Now, work backwards one task at a time. You may have put ‘submit assessment’ on Saturday, for example, so work backwards. Monday you finish off research, Tuesday you begin writing, get it all finished my Thursday, proofread on Friday and make sure you’re at the correct word count, submit on Saturday. This breaks down your bigger tasks and ensures you don’t ‘forget’ about your deadline. I recommend this method to absolutely anyone and it’s so helpful with studying in particular. 

Put One Smaller Task Per Day

On your fat master to-do list you might actually have small tasks that will only take less than an hour. Allocate one of these tasks each day. Don’t get too ambitious, because throughout the week you’ll be adding to the list as life goes on – you know. At the end of the week that’s still 7 little tasks completed! 

Put One Bigger Task Per Day

Along with that, put one big task per day. Such as the example we previously discussed: starting to write an assignment! That’s a big task (in my eyes anyway) so prioritise that on your list. Sadly, life means we can’t just do one ‘big’ thing per day. We have to do more. But in your forward planning, just put one thing down. You’ll add to it.

An Enjoyable Task

Try to enjoy every little thing you do, of course! However, at the end of a hard day’s work, treat yourself to something you can do for you. AND PUT THIS ON YOUR LIST. Because self-care hands itself to productivity, and prevents overworking and burn out. I, for example, might put ‘watch Torchwood and bullet journal’. Something I enjoy. I don’t force myself to put a ‘fun’ task on my list everyday, because that would completely destroy the idea of it being ‘fun’. You could put something as broad as ‘me time’ as a check box, and do whatever you feel like that day. That could mean half an hour on Instagram scrolling (allow yourself that if you enjoy it). 

Exercise

You’re really supposed to exercise everyday, but putting it on my to-do list makes it feel like an extra little win.

Weekly Tasks

Finally, go over your master to-do list again to look at tasks that you need to get done before the week is out but on no specific date. Perhaps make a separate box for this on your timetable!

Throughout this post I have said ‘you will add to it’. The model I have explained in this post is for a week in advance. Weekly planning is so much more efficient than daily. However, tasks will come up day to day that you need to add to your list. You might be set something on Tuesday due on Wednesday. Of course add this to your list. That’s why you should never bombard yourself with too many tasks at the start of the week, because things will crop up. 

I really hope I explained myself well here, although it is hard to show weekly planning through writing. It’s not that complicated – but through words it makes itself out to be! 

There will be other tasks that don’t fit within these categories or maybe there are too many big tasks to put for one week! They can be allocated to the next week. Or you can do them when you get free time throughout the week. Keep this master to-do list so you can use it for the next week’s weekly planning session. You might have more time that week than the week before! Flexibility is key. Too much structure is hard to stick with, too little means you get nothing done. Balance and flexibility are key to productivity 🙂 

(ooh, I just made that phrase up myself but I kinda like it ;))

What’s on your to-do list today? How are you going to get it done?

And if your to-do list just looks like: wake up, shower and eat food that should not be invalidated. You’re doing so well. Don’t allow hustle culture to make your day seem ‘less productive’ just because you aren’t moving at a million miles per hour. 

I shared this on my Instagram stories a few weeks ago: ‘productivity is making the most out of a given situation’. Are you feeling ill? Rest. That’s productive, because you’re making the right decision in that given situation. If you forced yourself to work when you were feeling ill, you’ll not only tire yourself out but probably produce something you’re not happy with and have to do it all over again. 

Productivity is relative. Do what is best for you.

Catherine x

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THE Top 5 Things You Can Do The Night Before A Productive Morning

If you’ve clicked on this post, it’s probably because you want to either wake up earlier, be productive in the mornings, or both.

And if that is the case this post probably isn’t the first ‘how to have a good morning routine’ you’ve ever read.

Therefore you will be familiar with the phrase that a ‘good morning starts the night before.’ Although that phrase gets on your nerves for the amount of times it is repeated… it is so true.

In today’s blog post I will be outlining 5 things you can do the night before a productive morning.

Enjoy!

1) Set Out Clothes

This practise is drilled into me. I have been doing it for at least four years, and it helps reduce the friction between waking up at getting ready. Along with the clothes I have picked out for the following day, I also lay down my deodrant, underwear, and watch/accessories. If I plan to have a shower the following morning, I will put out my body cream too. The idea is, when you wake up, you can easily get changed or if you’re a morning shower person – take the pile of clothes into the bathroom. Honestly, once you start doing it your mornings will run much smoother.

2) Go To Bed Earlier

Easier said than done – so I think I’ll have to do a whole blog post about this one. Going to bed earlier energises you. Beds are for sleeping in! Don’t cut that precious sleep time just to wake up earlier. Even if you don’t want to wake up earlier, getting an extra hour or two sleep will allow for your morning to be productive. Running low on sleep does not hand itself well to productivity.

3) Write Your To-Do List

I know some people write their to-do lists in the morning, and this is great. However, writing them the night before is the real turning point. 

Before you go to bed you can order your priorities clearer than first thing in the morning. 

If I ever were to write my to-do list in the morning, I’d probably be rushing to write it so I can just get started and not waste any precious time.

Don’t rush it; do it the night before. Try forward-planning so you don’t overwhelm yourself with a huge list. To-do lists are made to work to your advantage. By taking some extra time, you can really maximise the benefits of a tick list.

(I will write a post about how to create the perfect to-do list)

4) Put Your Alarm On The Other Side Of The Room

I used to think this was bullshit advice. Because I’d wake up, walk over to turn off my alarm, the walk back into bed again. I still do that now! But I do recommend putting your alarm on the other side of the room. This works well for someone with a big room, because there’s more of a walk to turn it off. Whereas for my room there’s one step between the end of my bed and the other side of the room. 

I put my alarm somewhere that I have to get up to walk over to. Nowadays I’m only snoozing once before I get up. It’s not perfect, but we’re getting there.

5) Understand The Routine You Will Follow The Next Morning

No point saying you’ll have a productive morning without knowing what you’re going to do! Think about what you need to do before you start working: breakfast, skincare, get changed… This is different for everyone although don’t skip breakfast. PLEASE! 

Work out an order for those tasks and drill it into your head. Or, if it helps, write it down. Then, the following morning, you’ll know just what you need to do and when so it takes less brain power. The more you follow this ‘ideal routine’ the easier it will become – and you’ll just be on autopilot.

I hope this advice helps you to navigate your mornings better, and allows them to run more smoothly. Let me know which tips you’re going to implement right away! As I said, I will write a post about creating a perfect to-do list and how to go to bed earlier. I think those points deserve a little more explanation. 

What do you like to do before bed every night?

I enjoy washing my face and following my skincare routine. My brain subconsciously knows that when I take my makeup off, the day is over and it’s time to sleep (or read for an awfully long time). 

Have a lovely day,

Catherine x

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How To Be Productive After A Long Day | Never Heard Before Tips That Will ALWAYS Keep You On Track

For most of us, evenings are the only time we can commit to our side hustle. During the day time we might have work, school or other activities that make it impossible to find time for our blogs, Instagrams and YouTube channels. I know that for me, after a long day of school and homework, I don’t have the energy to invest into my blog. Sometimes I just flop on the sofa and sleep. Although that’s totally okay, and the education system puts too much pressure on young people, you still sometimes need to get stuff done. It’s not that I don’t have the motivation to blog, it’s that I don’t feel prepared to take on the mammoth task of writing a post or responding to emails. In those cases, I use these five tips to keep me on track.

Turn Off Your Phone!

Usually my phone will be powered off as I complete homework, but in the odd case that it isn’t, I will always turn it off before doing some blogging. In conjunction with this, I will also close down all of my Safari tabs. If you have an iPad – or any other device connected to social media – turn that off as well. In some cases you will need your device to complete blogging tasks (replying to comments, writing Instagram captions) but where you can, do it from the laptop. It makes you approach every task with a more professional outlook, which I find very helpful.

Write A To-Do List

Hear me out here, because you’ve probably heard this one countless times. Sometimes a list in my bullet journal feels overwhelming, so I like to break it down into manageable parts on a sticky note or alternative piece of paper. A task on my to-do list may be ‘write a blog post’, but on the sticky note I will make a detailed plan so I have a structure to the post. This usually consists of five points – which I then adapt on. Write yourself a mini to-do list, breaking down a bulkier task. I promise you it works every time!

Get Some Fresh Air

For some of you, this may not be possible. In that case, just open your window and let the air circulate through. Unless, of course, you’re living in a toxic air space. Then don’t listen to a word I say!

After writing a to-do list, I like to go for a short 30 minute walk. No music, no podcasts, just thinking through and action plan for the task I need to complete. You could call this procrastination, but it helps bring a new perspective to my work. I might have sat through 2 hours of homework, and I just need to stretch my legs. I can’t be sat at the same desk all evening. In winter it gets dark super fast, therefore this idea is impractical. In that case I’ll do a short yoga or meditation. It sounds so fancy to say that – but yes I regularly do yoga!

Perform A Ritual

Don’t get hasty, I don’t mean magic spells! Before I get started on blog work, I always perform a ritual to get me in the mood. For me this is opening my window, cleaning my room and getting a glass of water. It’s nothing special, but after completing that series of events I feel ready to take on my previously thought out to-do list. It will differ from person to person but here are some ideas: make a cup of tea, read a chapter of your book, tidy away your school things, complete a meditation. My school work ritual is making a cup of tea and obtaining a snack of two crackers. Try it!

Just Do It

I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s the only way you’ll ever complete something. Just do it; get started on the task! I will always need to have a few energising moments after school, before I start blogging. Everyone needs a break, that’s a given. You can’t expect yourself to sit at a desk for 5 hours without once getting up. But your creative outlet is your passion. If you need motivation to do it, it’s probably not the right thing for you.

These self-help posts are some of my favourites to plan and write out. Do you enjoy them? Most importantly, are they helpful? I know productivity is a bit of taboo topic. You cannot be productive all the time, and you need breaks to keep your mind creative. However, during lockdown, I found myself giving up too soon. My evenings were spent watching hours of Doctor Who, not moving much and resulting in feeling just a bit ugh. Therefore I started implementing tips like these to keep me on track. Self-worth should not be measured by productivity. But then again, you only live once and you must make the most of your time on this earth. Key word: balance. Your definition of balance is in constant flux, which makes it hard to define. But effort is never wasted when it comes to self-care. 

Which of these tips are you going to use? Do you have any tips to be productive after a long and tiring day?

Let’s make the comment section a bubble of advice, so we can help those who are finding it difficult to find time post-work for their hustles. And as always, let me know what’s occurring in your life at the moment. You have no idea how much I love chatting with you all.

catherine x

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