How to Build a Better To-Do List

The dot com lifestyle means that you’ll be able to experience a lot more freedom compared to holding down a more conventional kind of job at a regular company. You’ll have location freedom, because you can work from practically anywhere in the world as long as you have a reliable connection to the Internet. You’ll have time freedom, because you’re not bound to specific office hours, freeing you up to take three-hour-long lunches on Wednesday afternoons.

And you’ll also be free from having a boss, manager or supervisor breathing down your neck every 30 seconds to make sure you’re staying on track and sticking with the specific plans and procedures that the higher-ups have dictated for you. This last point is a double-edged sword, of course, because it means that you become the sole source of direction. No one is going to crack the whip but you and no one is going to tell you where to go but you. That means you need to be decisive and you need to be organized.

This means you need to have a great to-do list. For my part, I tend to break this down further into a set of three to-do lists: daily, weekly, and monthly. The monthly is more like long-term goals, as those tasks and projects can easily spill over from month to month. For the purposes of today’s post, we’ll focus on the daily to-do list as it can cause a lot of people a lot of grief. To build a better to-do list each day, follow these key principles.

1. Actionable and Specific

Do you know what is one of the biggest problems with typical new year’s resolutions? They’re really vague. I want to exercise more. I want to lose weight. I want to eat healthier. What do any of these even mean? The items you put on your to-do list need to undergo the same kind of scrutiny such that they are actionable and specific.

Instead of saying that I’m going to “work on my website,” I’ll say that I am going to “write two blog posts” or “research and pitch three companies for sponsored content or influencer marketing opportunities.” You need to know when an item on your to-do list is actually done, so it doesn’t just go on into infinity. You need to know what specific action you need to take to satisfy it.

2. Keep It Tight, Y’All

Long to-do lists might give you this sense that you’re really out there hustling and you’re an especially ambitious entrepreneur, but it’s awfully deflating when you stare at one that’s incomplete at the end of the day, every day. You need to give yourself small victories to motivate you to keep going.

Extra short to-do lists are not any better, because they’re far too easy and you won’t actually accomplish very much. As with so many other things in life, you need to strike a happy medium and the sweet spot is usually somewhere around five items of varying difficulty and complexity.

3. Item Size and Length

Some items on your to-do list should be easy to do in a relatively short amount of time, like running through your main email inbox in less than half an hour. These are easier to tick off the list and can help you get a sense of positive momentum.

Other items should be a little more substantial and can take a little longer, like crafting the first three emails as part of a drip campaign for a specific affiliate marketing offer. This might take an hour or two. These are the bigger tasks that really help to move you forward.

Any item that you anticipate will take you more than two hours should probably be broken down into smaller, more manageable items.

4. The Schedule

I know. This is going to sound completely counter to the whole philosophy of the dot com lifestyle and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t adhere all that strictly to this last principle. That being said, people who do will have a better shot and accomplishing their goals and achieving their dreams. Schedule your to-do list items.

In other words, it’s not enough to have a tightly organized to-do list with very specific, actionable items of varying complexity. Now, you need to decide when you will do what. And this will really depend on the kinds of things you want to do and the circumstances surrounding how best to do those things.

Let’s say that you want to shoot a video. Well, you might only be able to do that during a certain “sweet spot” during the day when you get the most natural light coming indirectly into your studio, for example. You could shoot at other times of the day, but it’d be less than ideal, so you might schedule your video shoot for those couple of hours.

Maybe you want to minimize computer time toward the end of the day, so that youc an reduce the screen time before bed and get a better night’s sleep. Maybe you want to do more invigorating, energy-intensive tasks earlier in the day. It’s really up to you, but by placing these items on a schedule, you reduce the chances of infinite procrastination and distraction. You increase the chances of holding yourself accountable.

And isn’t that the point of a to-do list in the first place?

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