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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Self-Care | Chats With Cath

Welcome back to blogmas day 16!

A couple of weeks ago I posted this to my Instagram story. It had a very positive response and I think it is worth sharing here of WordPress too.

Because my blog so often talks about productivity, it’s important to define what productivity is. 

I would say it’s using a given set of time effectively in any situation.

For example, I have a headache but I have lots of school work to do. In that situation, I would take a rest and wait until the headache goes away before I tackle any work. It’s listening to my body. And if I need to rest, I need to rest.

On Saturday I had a lie-in until 9 which is very unlike me. I was disappointed in myself for not waking up at the right time, but then I winded back a few steps. My body needed that rest. My mind needed that lie-in. And without it, my day would have been less energised. 

I felt it was important to address this as my blog so closely focusses on studying! I’m not always working at my desk. I’m not always happily working at my desk. Everyone has bad days.

By the time you’re seeing this, it will be my last day of school in 2020. That’s crazy. 

This year has flown by. There have been some moments that felt slower than others and they stay alive in my mind.

I can’t wait for the new year. Though of course, I don’t want to wish away the end of this one. 

2021 excites me with its uncertainty. Hopefully it will be a better year for the world. But if not, let’s support each other. Love. Kindness. I will be carrying those two on my back in 2021 like wings. 

Enough about the future, let’s talk about the now. More specifically, self-care.

I asked you in my post the other day how you like to practise self-care. Your comments were a joy to respond to. 

This time last year I shared a post named ‘these aren’t your regular self-care tips’ and it’s a post I am still to this day proud of! 

However, in 365 x 24 hours a lot changes, so let’s talk about how I practise self-care these days.

  • Eating nutritious food, less of the processed stuff that makes me feel rotten
  • Waking up and going to sleep at consistent times
  • Always preparing for the following morning
  • Exercising. Making myself go outside even when I don’t feel like it.
  • Taking breaks form social media guilt free
  • Journaling
  • Taking photos of precious moments, or by taking photos turning things into precious moments

Self-care isn’t a face mask on a Sunday. It is what you consistently do. 

This post flows like a stream of consciousness, and stutters and stalls like a conversation. 

I just wanted to write something from me. Almost like a letter. And I hope you enjoyed reading.

What have you been up to today?

Along with some boring things that you wouldn’t care to read about, I baked some gingerbread men! I am yet to ice them but I think I’ll do that when the Strictly Results come on. 

Have a wonderful day everyone!

Catherine x

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5 Easy Ways You Can Be An Organised Blogger

Welcome to blogmas day 15, today on the subject of productivity.

I am a student and blogger, and with those things come many responsibilities. Beside my side-hustle and studying, I am part of a GirlGuiding unit and I also take cello lessons. But most importantly of all – I’m human! You might be wondering how I juggle it all. Later on this week I will be sharing another installation of my Chats With Cath series. In that post I will be going into more detail about how I’ve pushed out 1 blog post a day, and the stress of December. At this time of the year I love to address the notion of self-care. It’s important all year round, of course, yet when things get the most hectic is when we need to be the most mindful about how we look after ourselves.

This post includes 5 ways I stay organised as a blogger. Hopefully you can use my tips to make you more time efficient, and therefore being able to carve out more time for yourself, friends and family.

Keeping a list of post ideas

Keeping a list of blog posts ideas you get on the go is really handy, especially when you come to the keyboard not knowing what to write. I have a list in my Notes that I add to every now and then. Once the ideas have formed, I add them into a calendar. My three content buckets are sustainability, wellness and lifestyle. I don’t like to clump posts of the same niche together. Seeing my posts a month at a glance allows me to spread out the different ‘type’ of posts – so that you come to my blog seeing a range of writing. It’s also refreshing for me to write in different styles!

Drafting Instagram posts

Thank you Instagram for this marvellous feature. I will right my captions in Notes first, then copy and paste into an Instagram draft so it’s all ready to go. Instagram drafts allow you to add the location, tag people and select the chosen photos all at once. When it comes to your posting time you just hit publish, paste the hashtags in the comments, then you’re all good to go! 

Google Calendar

I set reminders with the title of each blog post and when it goes live. This way I know what to write in the correlating Instagram post. But, most importantly, my calendar reminds me what to write and when for! When I’m doing IRL school, Google Calendar is helpful. Otherwise I get so lost in school work that I forget I have a blog… (I’m not joking)

Spending half and hour doing blog related admin everyday

30 minutes goes a long way! I shared in my Cosy Night Routine post (please read it here if you haven’t already) that I enjoy doing this in the evening. Depending on the day I’ll either respond to emails, reply to comments, read your posts or reply to DMs. Ideally I would get all of them done but I just leave it up to future me. 

Master to-do lists

Every weekend I make the most mammoth to-do list with every thing playing on my mind that I know I need to complete. From this long list, I can divide the tasks up depending on urgency. Then they will be allotted a certain day in the week for me to get it done. This way of weekly planning I find keeps me on track. If you have any time to spare, you may want to take a look at Holly Gabrielle’s video on weekly planning because I use the same method as her. It is much easier to explain through dialogue than typed words! I’ll link it here for those curious.


Hopefully you will find these tips applicable to your current blogging ‘routine’. Everyone is different so these tips may not work for you, but I hope you can mould and adapt them to fit your lifestyle. 

What apps do you use on a daily basis?

I’ve seen Notion flying around a bit lately! I’d love to know what apps you use regularly. You might see me try them out in a future post 😉 Please leave some suggestions so I can make that post happen for you.

Have a very happy Tuesday!

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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