Priority List vs To-Do List

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.

The Reset Routine

Do you ever have those weeks that feel so draining and chaotic? I used to feel like that a lot, but a few years ago I started building this habit that I have come to label as a ‘reset routine’. I usually do this on Sunday or Saturday, but when or how you do this routine does not matter as much as the actions you take to reset your day or week.

The reset routine I have come to create is essential for keeping my life in order and my sanity intact. But I understand that creating this routine might sound a bit daunting, but I promise you it does not have to be complex and intricate. All you need to do is carve out a bit of time in your day of choice and you can build your reset routine.

As I mentioned earlier, I usually do this on Sunday because I like the tone it sets for the week. Some weeks I might dedicate only a few hours on Sunday to this reset routine, but most weeks I split up my reset routine to last the entire day. Once you have carved out some time and space to reset your life, it’s time to build a routine that suits your needs.

1)      Reflection & Intentions

First, take a moment to reflect on the past week, the upcoming week and how you are feeling about it all. Before you do any sort of routine it’s important to evaluate where you are mentally, physically, and emotionally. Establishing where you are at can allow you to create a routine that will address your needs. Once I understand what’s happening internally, I take a few minutes to set my intentions for the week.

2)      Clean, Clean, Clean

Second, once you have checked in with yourself, it’s time to start tackling the space around you. I am sure you all know that your physical environment affects your mental and emotional health, which is why it’s important to keep it clean and organized. What I do is make a list of chores that need to get done. Depending on the size of your home, the number of people you are living with and other factors, this might differ for everyone. But creating that list makes the chores tangible, easier to digest and easier to tackle. For many people, including myself, cleaning my physical space helps clear my head, which is why it is the first thing I do. When my space is clean, I can think clearly. 

3)      Plan the Week Ahead

After I finish cleaning, I will move on to planning my week. This step is especially helpful if the week or coming days are going to be hectic. As mentioned in my last post, I love time blocking and find it best to do during my reset routine. Planning the week also allows your brain to anticipate what’s to come and it can start mentally preparing for anything you have to do that week.

4)      Take Care of Yourself

Once your home is tidy and your week is planned, it’s time to focus on yourself. We checked in with ourselves at the beginning of the day, but now it’s important to help ourselves feel whatever we are feeling. I like to carve out an hour or two (more is also great) to journal, do a hobby, meditate, read, or even just sit on the couch and watch a tv show. What I am trying to get at is that during your reset routine, you must listen to what you need. What kind of rest do you think you need? Does your brain need a bit of creative time? Are you feeling lonely, sad, happy? Do you feel like you need to call a loved one? Resetting ourselves for the week requires that we check in with ourselves and that we feel whatever we are feeling and then deal with it accordingly. Some weeks you won’t be able to but feeling the emotions you are feeling is a big step in the right direction.

I hope you try building your reset routine and give yourself some grace. The routine and habits themselves will take time to build, but the more you do this the better you will feel and the more prepared you will feel for the week ahead.  

Time Blocking: The Organization Tool You Need

Working from home has presented a unique set of challenges, whether you are a student, self-employed or an employee. One of the most challenging things I have experienced while working from home is the lack of routine and structure in my day. When we need to leave our house to go to work, school or appointments, it instills in us this idea that we have a place to be, therefore we need to do x,y,z before we leave or when we return. We are creatures of habit and routine, so when our normal day to day routine was abruptly thrown out the window because of the pandemic, it became difficult to jump into the new normal.

One of the ways that I dealt with this as a student was by time blocking. It is not a new phenomenon, but it honestly got me through my last semester. I did not realize how much I needed a sense of structure and routine to accomplish the tasks I needed to do. Time blocking also gave me a sense of control over the week or month ahead of me. This is why, I want to share with you all just a basic way you can time block your day to day living, and hopefully it will help you be more disciplined and productive.

*Please note that I am using google calendar, but any calendar will do! Even a piece of paper and a pen will work.

1) Non-negotiables

I first start by plugging in the basics of my week ahead. In the spirit of creating a routine, I even go so far as to plug in my designated lunch break, what time I want to get up and any classes or appointments I might have this week. Start your time blocking by adding in things that you consider essential is a fundamental way to encourage you to incorporate habits you want to develop. For example, you could also include time for a workout, calling a loved one or a friend, meditation, journaling, etc. It’s important to understand that by plugging in your non-negotiables, you are acknowledging that they are important, but you are also prioritizing them in your everyday life.

2) Add in your Priorities

At the beginning of each week, I find it helpful to write out a list of priorities. This establishes what needs to get done first and is more important. Take a few moments to jot down what needs to get accomplished this week, and then add in the tasks in decreasing order of importance. Now that you understand what is important you can begin carving out time in your week to work on these tasks.

3) Add in Breaks/Chill Time

Life gets chaotic and hectic—that much is inevitable, but you must allow yourself the time to relax and do things that you like. As you can see down below, I have included time to work on my blog and even dedicated a portion of my morning to just chilling and relaxing. Not everyone can do that, and most weeks I can’t either, but on days when I can’t, I try to schedule a break, which can be seen in yellow. This is what the finished schedule looks like:

4) Add some colour

When it comes to good old pen and paper, I usually tend to stick with black or blue ink. But when looking at a screen, I need as much colour as possible to fully understand where I am spending most of my time and energy. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing for the eye, but it’s also useful when you get to the end of your week. At the end of the week, analyze the colours used and the tasks you did. Did you spend a lot of time doing one type of thing? Did you include enough breaks? Does your schedule need to be more flexible or perhaps more disciplined? Colour coding allows you to see where you might be spending too much time and how you could deal with that.

I hope those tips helped you, and I hope you consider trying time blocking! Sometimes doing a full week can be intimidating try mapping out one day at a time and see how it affects your life.

If you have any other tips to share about time blocking, make sure to leave them in the comments down below!

Organization Tools You Need For 2021

Organization Tools You Need For 2021

If you are anything like me, then you probably have a slightly unhealthy addiction to all things stationery, notebooks, and planners. I will say, I did not invest in a planner in 2020, but instead utilized the bullet journal because at least I could customize it to my crazy and unpredictable schedule. However, in 2021 I decided to take the plunge and invest in a planner. The way I see it is that if I’m going to invest in something it will be in myself and a tool, I can use to set myself up for success.  

I know a lot of people are hesitant to buy a planner or even just plan out their goals for 2021, and I spoke about it in my last post, but with that, I still think it’s important to work towards something or structure the work or job we currently have. With that in mind, I have also included a few online resources that you can utilize that are free, so you don’t have to monetarily invest them. But they still do an excellent job at helping you create an organizational system that works for you and your goals. Without further delay, here are a few of my favourite organizational tools!   

  • Monthly calendar

A monthly calendar is the number one organizational tool I would recommend to anyone. Whether you use it on your phone, your laptop, or a paper version, using a monthly calendar can set you up for success in the best way possible. First, it forces you to write down important deadlines, events, meetings, or appointments. This makes it easy for you to remember your busy schedule, and generally frees your brains from having to remember every little detail that is on your calendar. Second, it signals to you what needs to be accomplished, what tasks have to be completed and by when. When you utilize your monthly calendar to its fullest extent, you are doing half the work already. You are pre-planning your tasks and prioritizing them without even making a to-do list.

  • Planner

As I mentioned earlier, I did decide to invest in a paper planner. The one I am using is by STIL Classics, and I will say it is a bit pricier. But there are so many places that sell agendas to suit every budget and price range such as Indigo. One of the reasons why I love this planner is because there’s a section called monthly rituals and routines. After the Holidays I have had a tough time creating my morning and night routines. But this planner helped me make a concrete plan or idea of what I want in my mornings and evenings to look like. Another feature that I love about this agenda is that there is a weekly spread where you can write out your to-do list but then on the following page there’s also a weekly spread where you can schedule it out and I find those two together just help me visualize my week and time-block properly.    

  • Notebooks and Notepads

Having a notebook or notepad on your desk is one of the best ways to free your mind from distractions. Sometimes you get a random thought or idea not related to the work you are doing at that moment, but you still want to remember it. Having a notebook or notepad nearby can help with that. I also find that when I am feeling overwhelmed, just taking a few minutes to jot down my thoughts in this notebook helps me clear my mind and refocus on the task at hand. Another way I use my notebooks is just for to-do lists. In the middle of 2020, I was solely relying on to-do lists in my notebooks to get me through the day and the work that I need to do. It is endlessly customizable and allows you to structure your organizational system however you want.

  • Stationery

I am a big stationery lover and have far too many pens and highlighters for one person. Although I do not colour code everything in my life, I find that using colours in my notebooks or bullet journal helps add a bit of life to the page and encourage my creativity to flow more smoothly. Fancy stationery is not essential to your organization system but testing out how you plan with a bit of colour might be more incentivizing for you, or help you plan and organize yourself better.

  • Online Resources

Here are two online tools that I have used and find extremely useful and are free for those of us who do not want to use any paper or are on a budget. Trello is an amazing online tool that lets you customize the board you are using to organize your work. I used it heavily throughout university and mainly used it because it was easy to reshuffle my to-do lists and tasks, without having to physically change or create a whole new to-do list. Monday.Com I have just recently started using this platform, but it was created in such a way where it keeps you accountable on your deadlines and is amazing if you are working with other people on projects.

I hope these tools will help you create an organizational system that works for you and will help you accomplish whatever you need to do. Soon, I will talk about the organization system I have created and hopefully that can help one of you.

The beauty of organization is that it is truly customizable and at the base of it all you just need a pen and paper (or phone), and the motivation and courage to outline what needs to get done, and the discipline to accomplish it. But that system that you create is entirely yours and can be shaped and formed however you need It to be.  

*Please note that none of the links above are sponsored or affiliate links these are just things that I have truly come to love and I’m linking just for people who are interested*