Mapping out your day: Using lists to increase productivity

Start by figuring out the three to five most important things you need to do. File Jonathan Chiang

If you’re like me, your first instinct when you wake up isn’t to bounce out of bed and be as productive as humanly possible. It’s to sleep in or turn on Netflix. But there comes a point when you have to realize that spending your days in a TV-induced haze isn’t the best use of your summer. So, to switch my naturally lazy default mode to my productivity mode, I like to map out my day. Here’s a step-by-step guide of how I do it.

Wake up and resist the urge to spend hours scrolling through Instagram or watching Netflix

This is the hardest part for me. But if you can overcome that first temptation of laziness, you’re good to go. Remember, you choose how your day is going to go.

Lists, lists, lists

Start by figuring out the three to five most important things you need to do or want to accomplish and write them down. Try to order them based on importance. Your top priority tasks should be at the top and your lower priority tasks on the bottom. I like to stick to around three to five main tasks per day, otherwise you may find yourself overwhelmed or disheartened if you can’t finish everything on your list.

Give your tasks/activities time slots

Beside each item on your list, allocate an estimated amount of time you think it will take to accomplish each task. This gives you a general idea of how your day will look, keeps you busy and minimizes any down time that may tempt you to slide into a Netflix coma. Now, keep in mind that these slots are estimates, so don’t feel bad if it takes way more time than you anticipated!

Add a section for “filler activities”

These are all the little chores and random things you need or want to do as well like dishes, vacuuming or picking up the mail. I like having this section for when I feel like I’m starting to lose momentum or when I get fatigued doing an activity. Doing these little things keeps you productive while giving you a rest from those main goals, activities or tasks that you’re trying to accomplish.

Go forth and get started!

Ahhh, the most satisfying thing is being able to cross out the things you’ve done. For me, it really boosts my self efficacy — the belief in your ability to achieve goals and succeed in specific behaviours and tasks. Even checking off those filler tasks makes me feel good, like I’ve accomplished something. And even more satisfying is crossing off those big items.

You really do get more done when you have your day mapped out. It gives you structure. All of a sudden you know what to do despite having all this free time. Whenever I do this, at the end of the day, it just feels good to know I have used my time wisely!