to do listYour to-do list is more than just a piece of paper with some items on it that you cross off as they're completed. In fact, if you create your to-do list properly, it has the potential to improve your productivity and move you closer to achieving your goals.

Many business owners create to-do lists to remind them of tasks they need to complete. While those tasks may keep you busy, it's important to differentiate between what actions will move your business toward a specific goal in your strategic plan, and which ones are simply taking up your time and energy in unproductive ways.

It makes no difference whether you scribble your to-do list on a scrap of paper, or enter it into an app on your smartphone, or type it into your project management software. The point is to focus on completing specific tasks that propel you further towards achieving your goals.

Here are some simple tips for ensuring your to-do lists are productive:

Break Down Big Tasks

It's common for many people to procrastinate over a big task. Yet if you break down that big task into smaller, more manageable steps it becomes much easier to overcome any fears or concerns you had.  

Completing smaller steps along the way to finishing a big task also makes it easier to feel a sense of accomplishment that you're getting somewhere, which further helps to boost your productivity levels.

Condense Your List

Research has shown that creating a huge, detailed to-do list creates a sense that you've already done the tasks. Besides, there are some people who incorrectly assume that checking a lot of completed items off a to-do list somehow makes them feel accomplished, regardless of how productive those items are.

The result is that you feel a false sense of accomplishment that ends up being counterproductive.

Limit your daily to-do list to three or four significant items. You won't feel daunted by the prospect of trying to complete 20 tasks in a day, so you'll be reducing your stress levels at the same time.

Prioritize Items on Your List

There's no point creating a huge list of things to do if you know deep down that you'll never get through them all. Every time you even think about a task on your to-do list that hasn't been completed, it drains your energy and ruins your productivity. If you're setting yourself up to fail with an unachievable list of tasks to get through, you're also increasing your stress levels enormously.

Think carefully about whether each activity or action is the best use of your time. Then consider whether the task might be delegated or put aside until a more opportune time.

Work out what things absolutely need to be done today to propel you another step further towards achieving your goals and prioritize those items. Any items that can wait until tomorrow or later in the week should be added to separate reminders so you don't forget about them completely.

Follow these simple steps and you'll find it easier to complete productive tasks each day. You'll increase your productivity at the same time as moving closer towards achieving your goals.

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