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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5 Effective Ways To Be Productive on Dark, Rainy Days | Collab With Zainab Chats

Winter in the Northern hemisphere is kinda tricky. As soon as you get back from college/school/work, it’s dark. And since your mind associates dark with sleep… you feel less energised to complete work. It’s hard enough as it is, never mind pitch black outside. That’s why I thought it might be useful for any of my northern friends, to share ‘how to be productive while it’s dark’. Some people work at night anyway, which is so credible. However, on a recent Instagram poll, most of you preferred to work in the daylight!

This post is brought to you in collaboration with my main man, no.1 supporter, incredible blogger Zainab! We’re both delivering a post about studying/producivity. Her’s is a Productive After School Routine – so they both tie in together which is perfect. I would have done an after school routine but I’m not going into school right now due to COVID isolation. That’s the reality of so many of our lives right now and I hope you find this post relatable and informative!

Let’s jump into it!

Nice lights

Working in the dark requires a light on, that’s agiven. However if you can – jazzing up your space with ‘nice’ lighting such as strings of fairy lights, candles, LED lanterns makes the late night working much more appealing! I enjoy lighting a candle or having my fairy lights turned on to feel extra special. It makes me look forward to studying/being productive.

A small to-do list

The last thing you want is an overwhelming to do list! That is why I strongly believe in weekly planning. Dump everything you need to do into one mammoth list. Then pick a few to do each day. If you’re working after school, set a max of 5 tasks. The more you add the more resistance there is between starting your task and getting it done.

Take breaks when something becomes mundane

If you’re getting bored by your task, take 20 minutes to do something completely different then return. I might want to tackle a biology paper, but then get bored in the middle. At that point I might start writing a blog post, then return to the biology paper in a couple of minutes. Or tidy your room! Something small, not too distracting. You could call it procrastination but it’s effective, right?

Do two things on rotation

This one works for two large tasks, and doesn’t necessarily apply to working in the dark. For example: I have a history assessment to write and an English presentation to pull together. I do the history for half an hour, then switch to the presentation for half an hour, then switch back to the history. Then you’ll never reach a point of boredom! I think this is a more efficient way of doing something, as opposed to doing one after another.

Snacks 

TW: food. If you’re suffering from any form of disorded eating and food triggers you, please do what is right for yourself and skip reading the next paragraph. 

Food = energy. Energy / work = productivity. The more energy you have, the better your productivity will be. It might not be dinnertime yet but you still need a boost to carry you through. Listen to your body, have that snack, and feel much more confident in completing your work. You deserve a snack and you probably need one after all of the effort your brain has been putting in!

I hope these tips help you to be productive while it’s dark outside. I know I need these tips every now and again! Working with pitch black outside isn’t that fun but you gotta do what you gotta do. Let me know if these tips make it easier for you to work in the dark!

Please check out Zainab’s half of the collaboration! She’s so wonderful and amazing, and would dearly appreicate a follow from you. Her blog is linked here, her Instagram here and if you want to be friends with her on Goodreads you can do so here. 

Thank you for reading!

What’s your favourite time of day to study?

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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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5 Ways To Stay On Top Of Homework + Revision | Collab With Emma Blether

Hello everybody! Welcome again to my back to school series. I am very excited today to bring a collab with one of my most admired bloggers: Rachel. Rachel is a creator based in Scotland, who produces YouTube, blog and Instagram content under her alias ‘Emma Blether’. We have previously worked to each other on a few posts, which I will link here. More recently I became the first official customer of her new online business: Emma Blether Prints. I’ll link all of her social medias at the end of the post (so keep reading!)

Today’s collaboration is on a study based topic! I absolutely love sharing tips on how to be more productive. I’ll be sharing how I stay on top of homework, studying and revision. Rachel, on the other hand, will be sharing How To Stay On Top Of Revision. I will link that post here to you can head over and read it!

School is approaching, and may have resumed for you. After 6 long months of online school, it’s definitely a shock to the system to have face to face teaching and… homework. The devil’s word. But homework is a necessary tool to help you improve with your subjects! This post applies to revision too, although revision is definitely organised by the pupil more so than the teacher. Anyway, let’s get into it, shall we? 

Start As Soon As It Is Set

As soon as someone sets you a task, get started on it. No, I don’t mean get it all done in one night. If it’s a smaller task, of course go for it. However with bigger tasks and projects the largest obstacle is getting started! As soon as you can, get started. I usually do this by…

Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning! Rather than ‘go with the flow’ I like to outline the key points of discussion before heading into a task (I do this for blog posts too). You might be asked to carry out research on… Piet Mondrian – he was the first person that came to my head. Write out the questions you would like to answer in your research, then get started! But DON’T just simplify a Wikipedia document. Write down a few key points or mini to-do lists you would like to complete in your homework.

I have a sense that last paragraph made no sense. Sorry for confusing you! 

Sticky Notes

I might have rugby club directly after school, which interferes with my ability to get started right away. So in my planner, next to where I’ve written down the homework criteria, I will place a sticky note with my initial ideas. This is especially useful for creative subjects that require brainstorming! Or even with sciences, jot down what textbook you think might be useful to complete the homework.

A Planner/Schedule

Writing down your commitments (clubs, lessons, homework etc) in a timetable is a severely overlooked way to manage time! If you had five tasks set on Wednesday, but your Wednesday evening was packed full of work, write down (on your schedule) an allotted time to complete the homework/revision. Is Thursday night free? Do it on Thursday!

Don’t Pile It All On At Once

Procrastination is not ideal. Neither is expecting yourself to complete millions of tasks at a million miles an hour. Use the schedule, as mentioned above, to spread out your work. A spot of revision every day is better than one huge day packed full at the end of the week. Small, but often! That’s my approach with homework. Always make time for family, friends and pursuing your passions. School is really important, but your whole world shouldn’t centre around it. Take breaks.

These pens are completely plastic free, and the ink is soy based (non toxic) so perfect if you’re wanting to make an extra effort this school year for the planet

Many thanks to Rachel for allowing me the chance to collaborate once again! Writing study centred content is actually so enjoyable for me. On top of that, I have a few ideas planned out! Stay tuned for more study content in my back to school series. If you do really like it, I might do it beyond September! Let me know what you think.

I’ll link Rachel’s part of the collab here, along with her Instagram, YouTube and business. 

What is your advice for staying on top of homework? Which one of these tips did you find most useful?

Have a great weekend,

catherine x

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