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Create the ultimate to-do list

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There are some types of to-do lists that are fun to write.

What to-do on your holidays for example. Read books, check. Enjoy cocktails by the pool, check. Don’t do any work, check.

Unfortunately our to-do lists are a little more complicated these days than they used to be, but there are also a lot more options when it comes to managing them. Handwritten or digital? In a list or split into quarters? Daily or weekly lists?

Free printable to-do list from Creativity Exchange

To keep on top of all facets of your busy life, you need to find the ultimate to-do list that works for you.

“Every day, I write down the various tasks I want to accomplish,” says Francesca Gina, a professor at Harvard Business School. “Seeing the progress makes me feel good and, research says, more productive. It also helps me be a bit more realistic in understanding what I can accomplish every day, and which tasks are top priority.”

We look at some of the options out there to make your to-do lists work for you.

Handwritten or digital?

In an age where nearly everything in our lives is done online from banking to dating, the to-do list is one of those things that some people seem adamant about keeping old school. It won’t die like your phone or tablet will when the battery runs out, you don’t have to type it out on little keys on your phone and you’re not restricted to a set format.

But like e-reader naysayers who’ve been trying to resist technology for so long, there are undeniable benefits to using a digital platform for your to-do list.

These free printable to-do lists from the Creativity Exchange (picture above) cover off more than just your work tasks. It has a plain to-do column, but also has sections dedicated to where you need to go, what you need to fix and what you are cooking for tea. Print off as many as you want for free, and stick them in this notebook, from notonthehighstreet.com which will motivate you to get things done every time you look at it.

Digital apps are great for managing tasks, but they can get a little boring. Life is about incentives, and typing up your lists into a smartphone may not be enough to get most of us motivated. Step in Habit RPG.

This little app works across iOS and Android platforms and it turns your to-do lists into a game. When you tick off a task, you get points, and can use those points to unlock new features on the app. If you fail and don’t meet deadlines, your character’s ‘health’ declines and you lose points. Just like gaming, it can be addictive and anything that can make completing your to-do list addictive is a good thing right?

Giving you even more motivation, you can invite your friends to take part as well, much like fitness app My Fitness Pal, and compete against them to be the most efficient task master.

It does lack things like recurring reminders and custom categories, so if you’re looking for something a bit more robust with tons more options and features, try Any-Do or Wunderlist which will sync your with your calendar and remind you about your list every morning.

The great divide

If you’ve chosen what kind of to-do list you want to have, now you need to decide how best to split it up.

It’s down to the individual but here are some things you should definitely consider:

Categories: The first stage of splitting up a list. Writing one long to-do list might work for some people, but with so many things to consider - work, home, health, children - dividing your list into categories should be your first point of call. This can also help you to prioritise which tasks are most important - going to the gym or meeting your friend fo a drink after work? Tricky...

Timing: Writing down a fresh list every day will help you to get clear in your head what your priorities are. Either write it down the night before, so you can get going as soon as you wake up, or spend five minutes in the morning scribbling it down so you don't forget important things.

Having weekly and monthly to-do lists are also really handy, as they'll help you to see the bigger picture when you're lost in the depths of a work report or working out at the gym. They're the lists that will keep you motivated when you've forgotten why the tasks you're doing are so important. Weekly and monthly lists will also be great to look back on, showing you how much you achieved and what tasks fell by the way side, to make sure one area of your life isn't taking over.

Reminders: Seen something that’s inspired you? Make a note of it before you forget about it forever. Evernote is a great app for keeping track of articles you’ve seen online, images you’ve taken that you don’t want to forget about, as well as simple notes to spark your memory.

Words: Michelle Fowler, Images: Habit RPG, notonthehighstreet, imgur.com

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