You've made millions of lists in your life, but have you ever though about how to write a to-do list effectively? I have, and this is what I've come up with.
Make it Focused
As the name implies, a to-do list is a list of things to do. A good to-do list contains items that are focused and actionable, things like "buy milk" or "pick up the dry-cleaning".
Focused items alone however, are not enough. They provide us with very detailed view of our tasks, but they fail to give us a good overview.
An effective to-do list should provide us both with a good micro-level (worm's eye) view of our tasks, as well as a macro-level (bird's-eye) view.
Give it some context
To give us a better bird's-eye view, we need context. This can easily be achieved by giving our tasks a place, take these two lists for example:
|To-do (without context)|
|pick up the dry-cleaning|
|buy some avocados|
|go to the post-office|
|To-do (with context)|
|at store - buy milk|
|at store - buy some avocados|
|at home - go to the post-office|
|at home - pick up the dry-cleaning|
As we can see, simply by adding context to our to-do list, we've given it a nice bird's-eye view. We can now see how much stuff we have to do at the store, and how much at home.
Context - subject, action.
Adding context is great for simple tasks, but often it's not enough for complex tasks. As a web-developer for example, I often have to fix specific items on specific pages of a site. To make our tasks more specific, we can break them down into actions and subjects.
The syntax I use break down tasks into subjects and actions goes like this Context - subject, action.
Put into practice, we can create a to-do list that gives us very high-level information about what we have to do, as well as very low-level details about our tasks.
|Homepage - header, make logo bigger.|
|Homepage - header, add 'on-sale' items.|
|Homepage - footer, change color of search bar.|
|Product Page - image gallery, change width.|
|Product Page - product description, make headline bigger.|
This simple approach let's us group our tasks into sections, which makes it easier to finish tasks that are related to each other. The syntax for this style of to-do list is actually inspired by a mathematical notation called 'Reverse Polish Notation', so in honour of that, I'll call this approach 'Reverse Checklist Notation'.