Going Beyond a To-do List

Going Beyond a To-do List

I have written previously regarding a time-schedule and a to-do list on FreelanceApple. The posts were rather basic, so I have taken the initiative to go beyond the time schedule or to-do list into showing you how to properly make and follow a to-do list. As part of ‘Productivity Week’ here on FreelanceApple which will continue until 9th March, this article will aim to educate people from all levels of freelancing, in order for them to manage their time in a more professional manner.

Will a To-do List actually help manage time?

The greatest argument which freelancers have against a To-do list is that you need to constantly update it – well duh! Why is that a negative? You life is constantly updating as you go on so what you do and when you do it also update. The great thing about a To-do list is that you won’t have to rethink everything as soon as one small problem comes along.

A To-do list helps me especially because if I did not have one then I would always forget to-do things and do them in the wrong order of priority. If you are a genius and can remember everything and the importance of things in order without wasting time then don’t make one. For the rest of us ‘normal people’ I think we need to make a list.

Advanced To-do list

Here is where the fun begins. When I say To-do list, many of you think of this:

  • Play Halo
  • Watch Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Contact client regarding project
  • Send files to Joe Bloggs of completed project
  • Send outstanding payment to random company
  • Complete project
  • Take kids to park
  • Put the rubbish out
  • Check Facebook

And so on.

This is not what I am talking about, in fact, this is very basic and will not help you massively. What you need is “Steven Covey’s Four Quadrant To-do list” which he describes in his fascinating ’7 Habits’ book.

Click on image to enlarge or save

Get your conventional to-do list and fit in here. You will soon have a nice idea of precisely what needs to be done and how important and pending that task is.

A trick is to break things into small steps than mentioned above. As opposed to writing “complete project” as an important task which is due soon, you may want to break it into smaller steps and write the exact process and steps which need to be taken in order to “complete” the project.

If you have to eat a frog, it won’t pay to sit there looking at it. If you have to eat two, eat the biggest one first.
Old saying

Another tip is to do the hardest most laborious task first and the easiest later as this will ease the pressure. When you are writing things on your to-do list then you should list them in priority and make sure the hardest things are done first. The main reason I do this is because there is more motivation for me to finish the hard task sooner because then I can get onto the next task.

So if I was to ask you now, which order things should be done in, then everyone would agree that ‘Important’ and ‘due soon’ is first and ‘Not due soon’ and ‘Not Important’ is last. People would however opt for ‘Due soon’ and ‘Not Important’ next, however this is not true. In fact you should be doing ‘Not due soon’ and ‘Important’ next. See diagram below which illustrates which order you should do it in:

In fact, why do 3 and 4 at all? If it is not important why would you spend your precious time doing these things when you could be in the park with your children? Or having a romantic dinner with your partner? This is one of the methods of ‘creating time’ which is what we will be discussing later in ‘Productivity Week’.

Where should I have my new and sexy To-do list?

People will have lists in their diaries and others on post-it notes. Personally I have my to-do list on my notice board so that I can be in constant access of it. There is, however, no right nor wrong. Some people will have it on their second or third monitor. Which ever way suits you, just do it.

Final Word

Every freelancer should try Steven Covey’s four quadrant to-do list. There is no harm in trying this and personally I find it helps me organise my mind and spend more time with my daughter. Try this table and be sure to come back to FreelanceApple because we have Productivity Week this week, don’t miss out!

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This post was written by:

- who has written 54 posts on Freelance Apple.

Shoaib Hussain is an web entrepreneur who was formerly a freelancer. He is the main writer and owner on FreelanceSchool.com and aims to enlighten young freelancers with his vast experience and deep knowledge. Shoaib Hussain also spends his time giving advice to budding freelancers and helping web businesses.

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21 Responses to “Going Beyond a To-do List”

  1. Yagnesh Ahir Says:

    first!! …very interesting way to organize to-do list. i’d definitely try this method. Keep up the good work!

  2. Darius Wyland Says:

    Many thanks for sharing such an insightful article with all of us. I’ve bookmarked your blog will come back for a re-read again. Keep up the excellent work.

  3. Jordan Walker Says:

    I try to have an online to do list that will send me a reminder if I do not get a task completed.

  4. Sandy Liscio Says:

    I am generally not the kind of person to submit comments on people’s articles, but for this post I just had to do it. I have been searching through your website a lot nowadays and I am super impressed, I think you could really become one of the main opinions for your market. Not sure what your workload is like in life, but if you started commiting more effort to posting here, I’d guess you would begin receiving a mass of visitors soon. With ads, it could emerge as a great reserve revenue source. Just something to ponder. Good luck!

  5. marc Says:

    Hello! Your post () does so well that I would like to translate it into French, publish on my french blog and link to you. You have something against it? Regards

  6. Joseph McCullough Says:

    This post just convinced me to go research the 7 Habits book. I’m about to buy it on amazon right now. Good article!

  7. Shoaib Says:

    Very good, it is a must read. It will change your life.

  8. Fitness Tips and Health Info Says:

    Exceptional post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am having a hard time getting my subscribers to leave comments. They are coming to the site but I have the impression that “nobody wants to be first”.

  9. Aubrey Stutler Says:

    I enjoyed reading such a great article. Such entertaining writing is rare these days. Informed comment like this has to be applauded. I’ll certainly be looking in on this blog again soon!

  10. Teena Says:

    I really should try this one. I usually create a “to-do-list” but not on this manner. It will definitely help me more. Thanks.

  11. Camila Kurutz Says:

    great stuff, cheers man

  12. Dolly Says:

    I just am curious why the time management model only looks into the serious things. That which I think is unhealthy and unrewarding.I suggest a different model. like ont he top row you will have : Important fun, important not fun, not important not fun, not important not fun against urgent and not urgent. It should make life more balance and less stressful. Try it!

  13. Upright Vacuum Says:

    Planning out things for the future is a very good step to manage your time rightly. Systematic planning is the cue for everyone’s success. And, people should realize that having a to-do list is more than just a guide. You could do much better than just following what it says.


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  6. [...] simple basic solution is to use Steven Covey’s four quadrant To-do list. This does not necessarily ‘create’ time however. In the four quadrant system there is [...]

  7. [...] is not. We lazy freelancers, on the other hand, can do this and cross off our lists those things which are not important and therefore can not be [...]

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