How To-Do: The Daily To-Do

Yesterday I said I would finally get around to telling you folks how I do my To-Do lists. I was thinking about doing one about Weekly To-Dos, but then it dawned on me that it’s not logical to start with weeklies, when you really want to start with the basics and that’s the Daily To-Do!

Where to start

First of all, these To-Do lists are very personal and I can’t tell you what to put on the list, except that it should be stuff that you want to have finished by the end of the day. Also, they key to making these lists, is that you need to keep them manageable. What this means is that everything you put on the list as a whole can reasonably be done within a day. You won’t have all twenty-four hours in a day to work on them, because you’ll have a lot of downtime as well. So, try to reduce the amount of estimated time to finish the list is a standard working day of eight hours. It also helps if some of the activities on your list take a specific amount of time. A very simple example is:  Read for one hour.
Now, of course there will be tasks that you can’t just quit before they’re finished, but always try to make an estimate of the amount of time it will take to do. If this is something you’ve done in the past, you should get better and better at estimating the amount of time needed.

The Daily To Do

Start writing things down

If you’re new to making good To-Do lists, the best way is to just write everything down you want to do. This is usually how my weekly To-Do starts, because it will be too much to accomplish in a day. So just write everything down on a piece of paper, or do it digitally. I personally use paper, because it takes some time to write things down and you’ll be much more aware of what you are writing down. This will also help with retention of your tasks later 🙂

So, for instance, here’s a list I made:

  • Review Bren’s review for Vakantievlinders
  • Write “How to make a To-Do lists” post on my blog
  • Read in the books I’m currently reading
    • Epictetus
    • Yougian #3
  • Check chapters of my first draft of Stempels
    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3
  • Write 500 words on Kevar #1
  • Take a walk in the afternoon
  • Exercise
    • Rowing 2000 meters
    • Dumbell training
    • Stretches

Quite a list, right? And this is on top of my regular workday of eight hours! So, as you can see I might be pushing myself a little bit too hard today, if I were to follow this list down to the letter. Although this list might be a bit long, it could still be doable, but if you keep this up on a daily basis, you’ll soon stress yourself out too much. You also need downtime and it can even help to put that on your list!

I also divided some tasks into sub-tasks. This is always a good thing to do, because if you create sub-tasks, that means a big project can be chopped up into smaller steps and that means you don’t have to necessarily finish it in one day! So you won’t have to feel bad if you don’t finish a sub-task, because you can move it to tomorrow.

Estimating time needed

Here comes the hardest thing of making manageable To-Do lists: Estimating how much time everything will cost you. This is because it’s something that comes with experience. If you can’t set a certain amount of time, then just try to estimate and if you’re wrong, you’ll know that for the next time you put that item on your list. So here’s the list again, with my estimates:

  • Review Bren’s review for Vakantievlinders  ~ 15 min.
  • Write “How to make a To-Do lists” post on my blog  ~ 60 min.
  • Read in the books I’m currently reading ~ 90 min.
    • Epictetus  ~ 30 min.
    • Yougian #3 ~ 60 min.
  • Check chapters of my first draft of Stempels  ~ 45 min.
    • Chapter 1  ~ 15 min.
    • Chapter 2  ~ 15 min.
    • Chapter 3  ~ 15 min.
  • Write 500 words on Kevar #1  ~ 45 min.
  • Take a walk in the afternoon  ~ 30-45 min.
  • Exercise  ~ 30-45 min.
    • Rowing 2000 meters  ~ 10 min.
    • Dumbell training  ~ 10 min. 
    • Stretches  ~ 10 min.

In total (the estimates of the sub-tasks are roughly the sum of the main task) I’ll need 345 minutes, or 5.75 hours if I wanted to finish all of this on my list. Combine that with 8 hours of work and you can see how that would mean I’d have about zero downtime today, if you add meals and other small breaks. That means something has got to move from the list to tomorrow’s.

Prioritizing like a Pro

Priorities

There are several ways of prioritizing and some tasks are timebound as well, which makes it easier to decide which tasks are important to you and which are not. For instance, my 30 minute morning read is always from 8:30-9:00. So putting the To-Do list in the right order is what you should do first. Just think of your day and when you want to do the things and you’ll soon find out where you have too much work.

  1. Read in the books I’m currently reading ~ 30 min.
    • Epictetus  ~ 30 min.
  2. Take a walk in the afternoon  ~ 30-45 min.
  3. Review Bren’s review for Vakantievlinders  ~ 15 min.
  4. Write “How to make a To-Do lists” post on my blog  ~ 60 min.
  5. Exercise  ~ 30-45 min.
    • Rowing 2000 meters  ~ 10 min.
    • Dumbell training  ~ 10 min. 
    • Stretches  ~ 10 min.
  6. Check chapters of my first draft of Stempels  ~ 45 min.
    • Chapter 1  ~ 15 min.
    • Chapter 2  ~ 15 min.
    • Chapter 3  ~ 15 min.
  7. Write 500 words on Kevar #1  ~ 45 min.
  8. Read in the books I’m currently reading ~ 60 min.
    • Yougian #3 ~ 60 min.

So, here’s the list again, but this time I added priorities and the order in which I should do these tasks. My morning reading time and my walk are respectively in the morning and around lunchtime. The other stuff will all take place after my office job worktime (17:30). I have a window of about 1.5 hours in between being done with my office job and dinnertime. After dinner, I usually don’t want to spend more time behind a computer, so that means a max 1.5 hours of “screen time”.  I also don’t like to exercise after dinner. That means I have a problem today, because exercising and doing all that writing stuff will take up too much time. I only have about 90 minutes and the combined time everything would take is 3 x 45 = 135 minutes. Seeing as I put exercise and checking the chapters of my draft as most important, I can’t take any more time to write on my new project. And that’s just fine, because going through my current project and already diving into the other is a bit counterproductive, although it can have a refreshing effect, too. But not in this little time.

One of my goals is to write a minimum of 500 words daily on any given project, but I count my blogs with this and this article is already over 1200 words, so I’ve done enough writing for today, I reckon. 😉

So, my final version of today’s To-Do list looks like this:

  1. Read in the books I’m currently reading ~ 30 min.
    • Epictetus  ~ 30 min.
  2. Take a walk in the afternoon  ~ 30-45 min.
  3. Review Bren’s review for Vakantievlinders  ~ 15 min.
  4. Write “How to make a To-Do lists” post on my blog  ~ 60 min.
  5. Exercise  ~ 30-45 min.
    • Rowing 2000 meters  ~ 10 min.
    • Dumbell training  ~ 10 min. 
    • Stretches  ~ 10 min.
  6. Check chapters of my first draft of Stempels  ~ 45 min.
    • Chapter 1  ~ 15 min.
    • Chapter 2  ~ 15 min.
    • Chapter 3  ~ 15 min.
  7. Read in the books I’m currently reading ~ 60 min.
    • Yougian #3 ~ 60 min.

Putting it all in practice

Quite easy, right? Making lists like these has become a second nature to me. Like I said, these dailies all serve my year goals, which include finishing my novel, writing a new one, getting into shape and reading over 30 books. It’s all a matter of being able to take a macro and micro view, of being able to chop up large project into smaller bite sized pieces.

What do you think of this method? Is it anything that could be of use to you? Please let me know!

Happy To-Do-ing! 😉

~Jeffrey

2 replies »

  1. Jeffrey, Even your final version of today’s To-Do list is so admirable around your job’s workday! –Very disciplined! –Appreciated your first draft, then priorities list, & final cut! Some things such as standard reading times & exercise times I would call routine & leave them off my list. You have a very ambitious daily routine, but you address that & make things adjustable. –My compliments, Jeffrey! Phil

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Phil, I agree about not adding routines, but this was purely written down to make the example and explanation a bit more extensive. I usually don’t add my reading time and exercise, unless it is as a way of reminding myself to do them! 🙂

      The most important thing is that you always make sure you have several hours to relax every day! It should be as high a priority as getting some work done!

      ~Jeffrey

      Liked by 2 people

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