Do you feel like your to do list just keeps growing, even as you get some things checked off? If you’re reading this, you probably do feel that way. I used to have this problem until I learned why making simple to do lists is not very effective, how to organize your to do list, and finally how to get it ALL done. If you haven’t read my post about why to do lists don’t work, go ahead and read that first real quick. If you already read that, then let’s dive into how to organize your to do list.
1. Make a to do list
The first step to organizing your to do list is actually making your to do list. Write it down! Write it all down on paper, in your phone, or on your computer. I personally prefer the simple paper and pen – it helps me think much better than when I use a computer or my phone.
Make sure to write every single thing you have to do – don’t leave anything out. For example, I have a to do list for work, a list of handyman jobs that need to be done, and a list of daily and weekly tasks. Yes, you can have more than one giant list. I think it’s easier to break them up into multiple lists, as I’ve done.
2. Prioritize your to do list using the Eisenhower Matrix on a weekly basis
Now you’re probably wondering what this Eisenhower Matrix is. The Eisenhower Matrix is an organization, strategy, and decision making tool based on dividing your tasks into those that are urgent and important and those that can be delegated or not done at all. The matrix is named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. Dwight D. Eisenhower said “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” And from his quotes like this, the Eisenhower Matrix was established.
You will separate your to do list(s) into a decision matrix with four quadrants – this is where you combine some of your lists into one matrix. However, if you want to do this for work tasks and home tasks and you don’t work from home, I would keep the work matrix separate from your personal matrix.
The four quadrants are:
1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately)
2. Important but not urgent (tasks you will do later)
3. Urgent but not important (tasks you will delegate for someone else to do)
4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks you don’t need to do)
What is the difference between urgent and important?
Urgent tasks need to be done ASAP, right now, today. Important tasks are those that contribute to our long-term goals and can be scheduled to be done later.
Because the matrix includes non-urgent tasks that need to be scheduled, it’s best to use the matrix on a weekly basis. Doing this will allow you to plan to have a productive week.
The nice thing about this matrix is that it makes you think about delegation. Delegating work to someone else is a huge help in getting absolutely everything done on your list. It can be simple like your kids helping out around the house or hiring someone to help with that handyman list. You may not be able to delegate your tasks every single week and that’s okay! You don’t have to fill up all four quadrants every week.
Use the fourth quadrant (neither urgent nor important) to eliminate tasks that are a waste of time and not going to help you accomplish your goals. Some examples are binge watching Netflix or playing video games for too long.
Here is an example of a completed Eisenhower Matrix (though we all have way more tasks for the week than this):
Now it’s time to organize your to do list and make a matrix by putting your tasks in the quadrants. It may take some practice for you to feel comfortable using this matrix. Figuring out what is urgent vs what is important will also take practice but you just have to start.
Find out how to use this Eisenhower Matrix in your daily life in my next blog post.