The to-do list is the original productivity hack. Though tried and true, there are plenty of ways for your to-do list to sabotage your schedule rather than free it. It's all in how you plan. Knock out your most important tasks with the 1-3-5 rule.
ABC, Easy As 1-3-5
To-do lists make sense. If you need to remember something you have to do, just write it down. But it's not quite that easy. If you're anything like most people, your to-do list easily gets out of hand. After writing down a few necessary chores on a pad of paper, you somehow find yourself filling the list with all the lofty projects you've ever considered. You're not alone: Roughly 90 percent of people in a LinkedIn pollsaid they can't get through their entire to-do list in a day.
That ends now. The 1-3-5 rule, as reported by The Muse, allows you nine items to tackle in a day — not too many, and definitely not too few. The gist of this strategy is this: Take all of the tasks that need doing and split them up. Allow yourself one larger project to tackle (your "1"), three medium-sized tasks (your "3"), and, finally, five small stragglers that are little, easy things to take care of (your "5"). If you're able to nail everything in your 1-3-5 list in a day, wind down by prepping your 1-3-5 for tomorrow. Look at you go! (Check out this downloadable 1-3-5 list template from The Muse.)
The ways you can doctor up your to-do list are practically endless, so it's about finding the right one for the kinds — and number — of tasks you're looking to conquer. If the nine items of the 1-3-5 method is a bit too many for you, you can try out other organizational strategies. Having a to-do list with a smaller max number may suit you better if you have multiple large projects to tackle. Instead, you may prefer the Ivy Lee method. This strategy has you put six — no more, no less — items on your to-do list in order of importance, and finish one at a time as you work your way to the end. You can whittle it down even further with Warren Buffett's two-list strategy, too. This method begins with writing down 25 goals and plucking out the top five most urgent to-do's to focus on before anything else.
If you've been paying attention, perhaps you may have noticed that Buffett's strategy, the Ivy Lee method, and the 1-3-5 rule all prioritize the most important you have to do in your day. That's what we call the frog rule. Supposedly, Mark Twain once said something along the lines of, "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." By structuring your day by starting with your worst task, the rest of your day — no matter how your to-do list is organized — will be a breeze.