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Call your boss back, send that email due last week, get started on prep for a presentation next week . . . the list goes on. Any typical day at a job comes with a thorough list of responsibilities, most of them falling only on you. When there is no one to check and make sure you are getting everything done, how can you manage to make sure nothing falls through the cracks? The most common answer is the To Do list. Many people maintain running To Do lists or keep individual ones for each day. It is something to always have in your office. But even with a list, as it gets longer, it gets harder to track. That is why it is very important to organize your To Do list, especially at work. That way, you can ensure that everything that needs to happen will get done in the right order of priority.

What goes on a To Do list?

The short answer is: everything. Anything you want to remember or do not want to have to keep in your brain can go onto a To Do list, as long as it has a place. You can keep track of assignments, important emails to respond to, errands to run, and any other significant items on a notepad sheet dedicated to your list, or a printed To Do list. Either way is fine, as long as the things you note make sense to you. It is also useful to use shorthand. The crucial thing about a To Do list is that it reminds you of what you have to do. It is of no concern that the way you abbreviate or organize makes sense to other people, because they can operate their own lists.

How should you organize your To Do list?

However you feel makes sense and will give you the right amount of structure. When I make To Do lists, I like to start with things that are due soonest. That way, I know it will be the first thing I see and prompt me to do it first, instead of letting myself get distracted with something that is not due for another two weeks. I like to organize by time. Some people like to organize by size. I have a friend who always starts with her smallest assignment, to gain momentum. Then she moves on to the next smallest item on her list, until eventually she can start working away at a big task. This also works great for truncating a big ticket item. If you have a big project, break it into small, actionable steps, and scatter them across your To Do list. By the time you get to the final product, you have already made leaps and bounds towards success.

Some people create categories for themselves. This is a great way to organize, because you can get into the flow of one group of tasks, and not have to be constantly switching. For students, this can mean completing all of your homework and studying for one class before moving to a new one, even if the assignment is smaller or due sooner. This allows you to draw from the same resources, and cuts out the time it takes your brain to readjust to a new set of skills. This can also look like splitting a To Do list into sections like errands, homework, work, emails, personal, plans to make, or any other category relevant to your life. If you work two jobs, you might need two lists to keep everything clear. 

To Do lists are a great tool to promote organization and sanity in a busy life. The simple setup allows you to keep track of what needs to be done and celebrate the success of what you have accomplished already, all while working on your own wellness.