To-do lists can be overwhelming. More often than not, we fill our lists with endless tasks, most of which will fall by the wayside. We might have great intentions by putting 20 items on our list, telling ourselves that we will be a powerhouse of productivity today, but in reality, we will only feel defeated and unsuccessful when the day ends and we haven’t blissfully crossed out all of these tasks. There are bound to be items that we add to our lists that we have no motivation or desire to complete, even if some of them are urgent tasks. So how can we ensure we complete the important items without becoming overwhelmed with a never-ending list? There are many strategies you can try to achieve this sense of satisfaction and ease, and I believe that certain methods are infinitely more effective than others.
One popular strategy is to organize your list by urgency, where the first item on the list absolutely must be completed today and the importance decreases as you move down the list. While this strategy can be effective if it is actually followed, we often jump around to complete tasks that are more appealing and end up throwing the priority sorting system out the window. Putting your hardest and most urgent task at the top of the list is daunting, and will likely lead to an abandonment of the entire list by 1pm.
I have recently started organizing my to-do list by the energy level that I need to complete that task. Our energy levels and mental sharpness fluctuate significantly throughout the day. While everyone experiences these peak moments at different points in the day, identifying when your highest and lowest energy levels occur will help you complete more tasks on your to-do list everyday. For me, I feel most focused in the early morning, right after lunch, and right before dinner. On the other hand, my energy levels decrease mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and in the evening. For each item on my to-do list, I categorize it as low, medium, or high energy needed to complete. Using this energy level strategy, I complete my high energy tasks during my peak times and low energy tasks when all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch TV. This ensures that I don’t push my difficult tasks to the evening when my energy levels are low, where I’m likely to give up completely and push it to the next day.
For example, today on my to-do list I had 4 low energy tasks (write Simple Joys blog post, organize 100 photos, run the dishwasher, and take my 1 second a day video), 2 medium (list an item on eBay and one on craigslist), and 2 high (write this blog post and do a GMAT problem set). By categorizing these tasks by energy levels, I’m able to use my dips and peaks in my mental clarity to my advantage and end up feeling more satisfied at the end of the day.
I haven’t been using this system for long, but in the time that I have, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my productivity and task completion success. I use Notion to organize my master to-do list, making it accessible on all of my devices and easy to edit. I encourage you to try this energy level strategy out for yourself, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish.