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Staying on top of life is hard.
Some days it can feel like even simple tasks such as putting a load of laundry on or emptying the dishwasher is just a task too many.
We are overwhelmed with all the stuff we need to get done. I mean I’ve certainly felt on the edge of tears as it runs through my mind for the sixty-billionth time that morning to call the vets and make sure I book my car in for a service.
But it turns out there is a way to combat these feelings while getting even more of the dreaded stuff done…
… that’s right, less stress and more accomplished. Sounds like a dream come true, right!
And that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you how to do in this post using an incredible little tool called a “Master To-Do List”.
What is a master to-do list?
Sometimes called a master task list, a master to-do list is basically everything you have to ever do in your life, neatly categorized so you can get everything done!
It’s a productivity weapon that will help you destroy all your “must-dos” and “should-dos” while giving your brain some space and peace!
Ermm yes it really is that powerful…
Think of it a bit like when Gandalf turns up at dawn with 2,000 riders during the Battle of Helm’s Deep (yep, LOTR nerd alert).
Not only does he literally save the day and everyone holed up in the castle breathes a sigh of relief, but he and his riders take down all those orcs far more efficiently than anyone else so far, although Gimli gave it a fair shot…
Basically, Gandalf is your master to-do list and with its help you’re going to become so darn efficient at taking down your to-dos, plus its arrival will have your brain literally sighing in relief. Finally some space to breath!
Like I said, because a master to-do list is basically a massive brain dump of everything you have to ever do in your life, neatly categorized so you can get shizz done!
A brain dump? That sounds gross!
Yeah I know, the name isn’t great…
But all you have to do is get everything out of your head and onto a piece of paper (or a Google doc if you’re more digitally-minded).
It’s literally writing down everything you think you have to do. That’s all a brain dump is.
And you mentioned categories?
So I like to have different types of master to-do lists to cover the different categories in my life, like work, home, personal, etc.
Don’t worry if this seems a bit confusing right now, I will explain it all later. But normally you would do your brain dump and THEN put things into the appropriate to-do list categories, you don’t have to try and file everything properly as you go!
Benefits of a Master To-Do List
Aka why creating a master task list is going to change your life!
- You no longer run the risk of forgetting something because it’s all written down. This for me is a good enough reason to do it on its own!
- It eliminates brain clutter and frees up brain space. You know when you can’t sleep at night and all the things you have to do tomorrow fly through your head, yeah that’s brain clutter and that’s what it’s going to stop.
- Massively reduces stress. I mean just think, if all those to-dos are keeping you up at night, then they certainly aren’t keeping you calm and happy during the day so getting them out of your head and done is going to be a great stress buster.
- It helps you stay focused on one task at a time. Multi-tasking is a productivity killer because you’re not actually doing two tasks at once, you’re constantly switching between the two tasks. But we all end up multi-tasking because we start a job and then remember that other thing we have to do, and the next thing, and the next! Before you know it we’re doing seventeen things and none are actually getting done. A master to-do list stops this because you know you won’t forget something AND you know what tasks take the highest priority.
- It reduces time-wasting. Because, as I said above, you always know what to do next and what takes priority.
Download Your Own Master To-Do List PDF Printables
Feeling pretty convinced that this master to-do list stuff sounds like the answer to all your problems?
You want to get all the things done, reduce the constant chatter in your head AND not forget to book your dentist appointment for the seventh week in a row?
Then grab your own Master To-Do List Template, the free printable to-do lists to get organized once and for all, with everything you need to get started with this incredible productivity system in your life! Just hit the button below to grab your copy!
How To Create a Master To-Do List – Getting Started
Now I know what you’re asking, how do I make my own to do list? And get excited because it’s actually time to start your master to-list but first, we need to answer the question, how do you make an effective list?
Step One – Choose a Simple Format and The Right Tools
I personally recommend you use a pen and paper (or the FREE master to-do list template that you can download on this post!). It’s just the easiest way to get started.
Now I’ve been using this method for a while I actually use a Google doc because I’m more of a type it out, rather than write it down kinda gal.
A lot of people create a master to-do list spread in their bullet journal, which is also a very effective to-do list format.
If you’re someone who’s more into their phone you might be considering a master to-do list app.
While these can work well I don’t recommend it right in the beginning just because I think you need to be able to see everything on one sheet of paper and because a phone screen is pretty small this is impossible.
However, if you are just a phone person then you might want to check out this list of the best to-do list apps and see if there is one you can use with this method.
Step Two – Make Sure it’s Portable
This is why I love using Google docs so much. As long as I can access the internet on some sort of device I can update my master to-do lists.
Pen and paper also works perfectly here, you just have to remember to bring it with you.
But portability is so important because you never know when a “to-do” is going to pop into your head, and you want to get that out of your head and onto paper ASAP.
Step Three – Consolidate All Your Lists
Now we’re going to actually start writing your master to-do list!
If you’re anything like me you probably already have multiple to-do lists floating around.
Am I right?
Now is the time to find them and write them all on your master to-do list brain dump sheet.
Then rip up all those other bits of paper, very satisfying.
Step Four – Create Your Master To-Do List
It’s brainstorming and brain-dumping time! (What a lovely image…)
Start by writing down every little thing you have to do in your head. No matter when it needs to be done, in the next ten minutes or next year, or how big or small, from emptying the dishwasher to paying the mortgage to buying a new car.
I don’t care what it is, write it down!
Be warned this will probably take at least ten minutes for your first one, maybe even more!
Then, when you think you’ve got everything out of your head walk through your home with your list. This will jog your memory in case there is anything else needed to be added.
Take time to create your master to-do list, we want to get everything out of your head, that’s when you’re going to feel those incredible effects!
But don’t forget you can update your lists as and when you need, so don’t worry if you’re not sure if you have everything written down, you can always add to it later.
CONGRATS! You’ve just written your first master to-do list braindump. Now we just need to organize it so you can actually get all the things done!
How Do You Organize Your To-Do List?
Now it’s time to answer the question of how do I manage my to-do list because if you’ve done your master to-do list brain dump properly it’s probably looking a little crazy!
Like a huge jumbled up list of tasks…
I know it looks overwhelming on paper right now but your head should be feeling pretty empty, in a good way!
But, if there are still things running through your head then you need to add those to the master to-do list, if you have that nice spacious feeling in your mind then let’s move onto the next step!
Step Five – Create Your Categorized Master To-Do Lists
You only ever have to do this step once. Because once you’ve made your categorized master to-do lists then you have them set up for life, or until your lifestyle drastically changes.
So what are “categorized master to-do lists” and what are the best master to-do list categories to choose?
They are basically the next level down of your brain dump master to-do list, categorized into different parts of your life that makes sense.
Now everyone will have a master weekly to-do list that they update each week (and I will get to that later).
But the categorized master to-do lists are more like “home,” “work,” “vacations” or “school”.
There should only be a few categories, I like four as a maximum, and they should cover all aspects of your life.
So have a think about what works best for your lifestyle.
If you’re in the middle of renovating a house then I think a home renovation list would be very handy for that phase of your life.
If you run your own business then you will definitely need a business or work one to keep all of those things separate from the rest of your life. But if you work at a 9 to 5 you might not need a work master to-do list because you might already have a task management system in place at your job.
I think a homelife list is non-negotiable, but if you have loads of kids or a huge household you might need multiple lists to keep on top of your home.
Just come up with the categories that will work best for you, remember there is no right or wrong here!
Step Six – Move Everything Off Your Brain Dump Master To-Do List and Onto Your Categorized To-Do Lists
Now things will start getting organized!
Go through every single thing on your brain dump master to-do list and transfer that task over to one of your categorized to-do lists.
The first time you do this it will probably take a while because there will be a lot there, but don’t worry, because as the weeks go on your master brain dumps will be MUCH smaller.
While you are doing this you might notice some of the tasks are high priority, in that they must be done this week. If you want you can mark them slightly as that will help with the next step.
Step Seven – Move Tasks Onto Your Weekly To-Do Lists
While your categorized to-lists are evergreen, in that those lists will just go on and on and you will keep adding to them. Your weekly to-do list will be brand, spanking new for each week.
At this stage, all you have to do is go over your categorized to-lists and pull out the tasks you will be completing in the coming week.
Because I practice time blocking, I like to integrate my weekly to-do list into my time blocks and schedule everything out on Google calendar.
However, you can totally just work off the weekly to-do list and make sure those items get done!
The point is you now have everything you need to get done this week down on paper so you can easily work through the tasks. Plus, you have everything else you need to get done IN LIFE written down on your categorized to-do lists so you won’t forget those things either!
You’ve done it! You’ve successfully created your first master to-do list and should be feeling so much calmer.
But I wanted to touch on the basic steps you should do each week to keep the master to-do list system running like a well-oiled machine, you continuing to get allll the things done AND keeping your brain sane!
Each Week You Should:
- Do a master to-do list brain dump for any and all tasks taking up valuable brain space, this will be a lot quicker than the first one!
- Anything that does not need to be done that week should be added to the categorized to-do lists.
- Anything that does need to be done that week should be added to that week’s weekly to-do list and you should also go over each categorized to-do list and see if any of the older entries need to be done this week.
- Don’t forget that you can and should write down any random to-do that pops into your head during the week onto one of the to-do lists (pick whichever makes the most sense) to get it out of your head!
And that’s it!
I can honestly say since implementing this system I have felt so much less overwhelmed it’s not even funny!
My head is calmer and I’m actually getting stuff done!
Don’t forget to download your master to-do list template printable, it’s cute and free, what more could you want!?!
Just click the button below to download your copy!