Creating a to do list has been a part of my daily life for a long time. I like to begin my day by making my list. It harnesses my thoughts and centers me because it gives me focus for the day. I have found when I skip my to do list, I tend to get much less done because I do not know where to start. On the flip side, there have been times when my to do list was so intense that I did not know where to begin. That’s when I learned about the power of five.

Check marks do not equal getting things done.

Every day, I used to fill almost an entire page of a notepad with things I “needed” to get done. I’d sit down and think up every imaginable task I thought needed to be accomplished and write it down. For whatever reason, a long list made me feel good. It made me feel like I had a lot to do. Trouble was, it was too much.

The first thing I started to notice was that about half of my to do list was filled with rote activities: brushing my teeth, cleaning the toilet, washing dishes, doing laundry. These were regular daily tasks, yet they overtook my to do list. I quickly learned by removing those from my list, I could easily reduce it by half, if not more. Sure, being able to check those things off my list every day felt good (because it looked like I’d completed something), but was it really necessary? No. I quickly realized the only thing I was accomplishing was making more work for myself.

How I made my to do list sandwich.

Since I love food, I decided to take a different approach to making my daily to do list. I decided to build a “sandwich” of task lists, one that would be more doable. I was somewhat apprehensive about paring down my lists to such shorter ones. It felt wrong, but I gave it a try anyway.

What I discovered was that by compressing my lists, I actually started getting more done than ever before. The shorter my lists, the more productive I became. Here’s how the To Do List Sandwich Method works:

  • Bread – Hardest, most time-consuming task
  • Mayo – 10-15 minute task
  • Ham – Next-to-hardest task
  • Lettuce – 15-30 minute task
  • Bread – Simplest task

First, create a shortened to do list. Then, start with the most difficult or length task. Next, follow up with a quick task that requires little to no effort. Move on to the next time-consuming or challenging task, proceed with another quick, brief task. Finally finish the to do list sandwich with another simple task.

Quick Tip: Be cautious with your easy tasks in between the more difficult ones. These are the ones you should use a timer with, to prevent time loss.

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