Most of us make to-do lists at one time or another and we make them for a number of reasons:
- We can’t keep all the things we need to get done in our short/medium term memory in sufficient detail.
- Several different tasks need to be worked on at the same time.
- When deadlines are piling up.
- To-do lists help us to feel organised, plan activity and rationalise the work that needs to be done.
What are your to-do lists like? Handwritten on random bits of paper? Organised in a notebook? Typed up in an app or document?
However you normally make to-do lists we’re going to look at some ways in which you can make them practical, efficient and easy to update.
- Organise it by module. This is a good idea if you’re studying several modules at once; keep 1 to-do list with a section for each module so that its clear which tasks need to be done for which modules.
- Update it regularly. To-do lists have to be kept up to date or you’ll quickly lose track of your workload. It you’re keeping your list online then delete the items that you’ve done as soon as possible. Those working on paper could try striking through the completed tasks with a coloured pen – maybe black? How often should I update my list? Continuously. In other words, whenever you get a new task, (or complete one), you should update your list.
- Use colour. Colour coding your tasks can help you to see what’s urgent or what kind of task it is. Devise your own system to suit your needs. Some students like to colour code by module which can make it easy to see what your commitments are for each subject.
- How long will this take? Instead of just writing down what you need to do (e.g. MCQ test), estimate how long each task is going to take you to complete. This isn’t an exact science, but with practice you’ll be able to see which tasks are going to take longer than others and make sure that you divide up your study time accordingly.
- Procrastination avoidance. Got a task that you’re not looking forward to? Think that you might procrastinate over it? Mark that one up and think about ways to break it down, ease into it, or get questions answered to help you get to grips with it.
Finally, you might see lots of attractive pre-printed to-do list pads available to buy online or in shops, but making your own system is more personal and we think that you may be more likely to stick to using it if it suits your individual needs.
Happy list making!