Priority List vs To-Do List

Do you often find yourself staring at a massive to-do list and just feeling overwhelmed? I get that. For a long time, I thought that just making a to-do list would be enough to keep organized and productive when I needed to be. Instead, I became overly stressed, disorganized, and confused. Why, may you ask? Because having one large to-do list was not giving me any structure or sort of strategy to tackle all the things I had to do. I was not prioritizing the tasks that needed to get done, and it showed.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to-do lists. But they were just not enough to organize everything that I had to get done, and that might be the issue you are also having. This is why, along with my to-do list, I also create a priority list. A priority list to your organizational system is key to getting meaningful tasks done.

A priority list is exactly what it sounds like. It’s you physically (or digitally) prioritizing items on your larger to-do list. It’s truly quite simple.

Is it worth it to create a to-do list? Yes, it is the fundamental basis for any organization system, in my opinion. It’s a jumping-off board for your priority list and helps your mind process what exactly needs to get done.

Here is an example of a larger to-do list that is almost the equivalent of a brain dump:

  • Response to text
  • Email professor
  • Readings 7-9
  • Essay 1
  • Essay 2
  • Slideshow presentation
  • Summary of reports
  • Draft & Edit blogpost
  • Send Resume & CV to Company

It’s essentially a very long list of large tasks and absolutely no structure or sense to it.

After your larger to-do list is created, it’s time to make a priority list. Start by looking at the tasks that have a deadline coming up soon. Next, are there any tasks that can be broken down into smaller chunks? Which tasks have you been putting off that really cannot be put off any longer? Lastly, are there any tasks that you can break down into smaller chunks that still need to get done right away?

Eventually, you might get a list of 3-4 items and that will be your priority list. Here is an example of my priority list:

  • Email Professor
  • Summary of Reports
  • Essay 1
  • Send Resume & CV to Company

By asking the questions I listed above, I essentially narrowed my tasks down to the things that had to get done today.

If you find you are having trouble deciding which tasks need to be added to your priority list, just ask yourself this, which task will make tomorrow or next week better for me? In other words, which task can I do today, that will make my life simpler in the future?

You do not need to choose between a priority list and a to-do list, because really, they go hand in hand. Once your priority list has been complete you can tackle the larger to-do list or reprioritize whatever is left on that list.

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