There’s an assumption going around that to-do lists are the best way to improve productivity. Making lists is simple, right? Actually, there’s a bewildering array of methods, hacks, and systems. You can put your lists into categories, or limit the items. Which method is best? Committing to and carrying out a system can be daunting. Fortunately, there’s a way to simplify the process. Here are several straightforward ways to maximize your productivity using the list-making method. 

1. Find a Medium That Works

Digital or analog? There’s no right or wrong way. Find a planner/calendar that appeals to you. Color, texture, weight (for analog), interface, and user experience (for digital) all matter. What do people you admire in your field use? Can you visualize yourself trying the same method? These are all important clues about the medium that’s best for you. 

2. Remember What’s Unimportant

Spend some time decluttering first, kind of like Marie Kondo-ing your to-do list. Sometimes the best way to get tasks accomplished is to determine what’s unimportant. Clear out calendar items and environmental cues that remind you of what’s not important. You’ll make space for sustained attention on actions that move the needle on what you really care about. 

3. Divide Your List Up

You probably have a master list in mind for your days and weeks. Get all of the items down, then separate events, calls, and meetings from things you plan to accomplish around these time periods. After that, create a separate to-do list of items that don’t fit into the prior categories, and attend to them when you’re not engaged in calls or events. 

4. Batch Similar Tasks

Shifting between different types of tasks requires mental, physical, and emotional energy. For example, brainstorming innovative revenue streams requires a very different mindset from answering emails. Make it easier on yourself by batching similar tasks together. Have some kind of cushion in between that involves clearing the deck; it might be a quick walk, a meal, or a fun activity. You’ll be more creative, and your productivity will increase. 

5. Evaluate and Regroup

Come up with a few metrics to measure your progress. Within three months, examine the data to determine the effectiveness of your method. Are you seeing a significant improvement in your productivity? If not, adjust your method. 

Maximizing your productivity requires flexibility and willingness to innovate. Try these suggestions to make improvements.