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.

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!