Create to-do lists that actually get done

Daily stand up calls in the office are almost mainstream now, everyone does it and everyone knows about it. But, on the personal front, we often struggle to manage our tasks and to-do lists.

It has happened to almost all of us - you forget to do something important one day and decide to create a to-do list to keep a track of all such tasks. You download the shiniest app out there, list out all the tasks and then close the app. After a few days, you suddenly recollect - what happened to my to-do list, you flip open the app and then see that some of the tasks listed are already obsolete and it has almost become a task to update the task list itself.

How do you make sure your to-do list is updated with your day to day activities? How do you ensure the tool you use complements your day to day life and is not an obtrusive addition to your already hectic schedule? How do you make sure the to-do lists actually help you clear your mind and improve your productivity?

Photo by Joshua Earle

Let’s look at various steps to help you create a healthy to-do list habit that actually improves your productivity.

Task Visualization

To find the root cause, lets take a look at human behavior, you will agree that until we have a visual representation, it is hard for us to actually understand and visualize things. Once we see things in a pictorial format, it is far more easy to comprehend. So, the first step is to create a pictorial representation of the tasks along with their status and kanban would be the best way to do so. Once you have a kanban board ready, you have already take care of the visualization issue. Now on, every time you look at your kanban board, you quickly get the idea of how much is done and what needs to be still done. Let’s now move to make sure you train your mind to update the kanban board daily.

Daily updates

We categorically ignore tasks deemed boring and uninteresting. And nothing is more boring than updating a to-do list. But if you overcome these pangs, and develop the habit of doing it once everyday - you will be amazed at the productivity and peace of mind you’d achieve. So, the trick is to fix a time during the day, when you are free, probably in the morning or after you are back from work or whenever you feel free - and remind yourself to do this just one task “Update the Kanban list”. This is also efficient in a way that, instead of keeping tens of tasks in your mind, you just need to keep one thing “updating the kanban list” and the list already has everything you need to do. This may take some time, but once you get this habit, it will be very satisfying to see that instead of just riding the hype about kanban - you are actually using it for your personal productivity.

Do the work

Now that you have your kanban board created and updated daily, the last step is to actually manage and execute the tasks. You may need to prioritize the tasks based on deadlines or your liking. One way to prioritize is to set proper deadlines so that you can easily browse through tasks and still understand what needs to be done earlier and what can wait. Another way is to make a consider listing things so that their order itself tells you the priority. It all depends on you taste.

We hope this post helps you create a healthy to-do list and improves your productivity. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you are thinking about what kanban tool to use, I would suggest Taiga - it is open source, free and very easy to use! Get started here.