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How Productive is your to-do list?Do you ever look at your to-do list and feel overwhelmed?
Do you ever find yourself procrastinating on certain jobs on your to-do list because you’re not sure where to start?
Do you ever look at your to-do list at the end of the day and feel like you haven’t really accomplished anything?
If you answered yes to any of these questions there’s a good chance you’re not using your to-do list correctly.
Have no fear, on this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast I share with you the proper way to use a to-do list. Or more accurately to-do lists.
Projects and Tasks
If you’re having problems tackling your to-do list it could be because you’re putting projects on the list instead of tasks. There is a difference. When you start looking at each one separately you will see just how easy it is to get things done.
The basics behind the projects and tasks to-do list method
- A task is something that can be accomplished in one session.
- A project is made up of multiple tasks.
It’s really that simple. If what you want to accomplish requires you to do more than one thing it’s a project. If it only required you to do a single thing it’s a task. The trick to being productive is to know which is which and only put tasks on your to-do list.
What do you do with projects?
Keep a separate list for projects so you can keep track of what you’re working on. But it’s your to-do list of tasks that you will keep referring to on a regular basis.
To start off, look at the list of projects you are currently working on. They may be for clients or they could be for yourself. Now identify all the tasks that make up that project and write them down on your to-do list.
Remember, a project can be divided up into either smaller projects or into individual tasks. But tasks cannot be divided.
A task can take as little as a couple of minutes or it can take several hours. But to accomplish it you should only have to do one thing. I give examples of this in the podcast.
Here's an example of dividing a large project into smaller projects and tasks.
A branding project could be divided into these smaller projects.
- Logo design
- Business cards and Stationery
- Signage and banners
- Social media identity
- Other marketing material
Each one of these sub-projects can then be divided into even smaller projects or into tasks. Take Logo Design for example. It could be divided into the following tasks.
- Choose fonts
- Choose colours
- Choose a design style
- Design the iconography
Designing a website can be broken down into these tasks.
- Register a domain name
- Choose and set up hosting
- Instal a CMS such as WordPress
- Choose and install a theme
- Instal basic plug-ins
- Choose a colour scheme
- Choose fonts for the site.
These individual tasks are what should be on your to-do list. They are simple and only require one action on your part. As you complete each of them check it off your to-do list. This will make you feel like you’re accomplishing things and making progress.
If all you have on your to-do list is design a website you would be seeing it day after day and you might not feel like you’re getting anywhere even though you've accomplished several tasks.
Accomplish more with simple tasks
Make tasks as simple as possible in order to accomplish them. Especially tasks that you're not too keen on doing. Such as those you keep putting off or finding excuses not to do.
Preparing your taxes is a prime example of an undesirable project that really needs to be broken down into smaller tasks. Gather receipts, gather income reports, gather expenses. All of these can be done individually as tasks and checked off the to-do list one at a time.
The hardest part of any project is just getting started.
You’ve heard the saying “every journey begins with a single step”? That’s what this idea of projects and tasks is all about. Taking that single step. Once you get used to this method you'll find that it’s really not that hard.
The objective here is productivity. But productivity can be a tricky concept. You can spend an entire day working and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything. That’s why, by creating a to-do list of tasks instead of projects. You'll feel satisfaction with every item you scratch off your list. So make as many tasks as possible. Break them down into their smallest possible components and then tackle them one by one.
If you try this method I guarantee at the end of the day, instead of feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything. You’ll look at your to-do list and think to yourself “I rocked it today! Look at everything I got done”. Projects and Tasks, it’s how we do it.
Do you break your projects down into their individual tasks?
Let me know how you manage your to-do list by leaving a comment for this episode.
Questions of the Week
Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Hannah
I am currently working for a real estate company in the USA as their marketer/graphic designer. I began working for them fresh out of college and have been with them for 3 years now, learning a lot in the process but would like to start the transition to a home based designer at some point. However, leaving the consistency of the corporate world and into freelancing will be a major hurdle. Do you have any tips on establishing a relatively steady income without the help of a spouse/family member's income?
To find out what I told Hannah you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
Resource of the week: Udemy
Udemy is a great online source of courses related to the graphic design industry. They offer everything from basic to advance instructions in popular topics such as logo design, typography, colour theory, plus courses on all the popular software we use. Sign up for their email list to receive special discounts and to be notified when their courses go on sale. I recommend Udemy to everyone who wants to learn to be or to better themselves as a graphic designer.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org