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Want to know why your to-do list never works for you?

At some point in your life, you’ve sat down and thought to yourself “I’m going to make a to-do list.”

I can guarantee you, that everyone over the age of 18 has done this.

Some people will have been successful, and others [like me] would not have been.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to tell you what you did wrong, where you failed and give you a solution to how to be more productive. I won’t. I can’t.


Reason? I don’t know you. There could be a thousand and one reasons why your to-do list failed you, and unless I do a deep dive into your life, I will never know and will therefore never tell you why you failed.


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I will tell you why mine failed, and perhaps it may resonate with some of you.

I did not give myself an actionable to do list. Before you ask, I will elaborate.

I would write to-do lists that were vague, easy, and occasionally I would add things that I had already done, just so I could tick it off. Anyone who denies doing the last, is a liar and I stand by that!


An actionable to-do list is usually 2-5 items long, and for each item there are a series of more detailed instructions.


Here is an example:


Previous lists:

o Lesson plan

o Car insurance

o Phone GP

o Solar panels

o Take out bins

o Clean car

o Ask about mortgage

o Phone update


Actionable list:


Task 1 – Lesson plan

· Which students do you have today?

· What did they do previously?

· Plan for if they did their work and plan for if they didn’t complete their work

· Will you give them homework?

· Have you asked about other commitments that would affect their ability to do homework this week?

Task 2 – take out bins

· Set an alarm to remind yourself about the bins

· Collect all rubbish

· Ask everyone if they have any rubbish

· Put in new bags [if needed]


By having shorter, more in-depth tasks within the to-do list then I’m more likely to actually get it done – have a guide and a goal. Otherwise. The lists get long and not connected, causing you to feel like you have not achieved what you wanted to achieve.


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Now, don’t think I’m getting on my soap box to preach how I’m far more productive than everyone! The reason why this has been weighing on my mind is that one of my students was struggling with revision and other commitments. She had written to-do lists, had board in her bedroom and multiple apps to try and organise her tasks. Yet all it did was overwhelm her and make her not want to plan anything out.

We came up with this solution together – that she would spend 5-10 minutes in the morning writing actionable to-do lists for the most important things she wanted done.

After 3 months, she is less stressed and more confident in planning what’s right for her.


So, to summarise – your to-do lists don’t work unless you give yourself more manageable, direct instructions to help you achieve your goal.


Until next time!

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