Organizing Your Life: To Do Lists (Being More Productive) | Taylor Bruno | Skillshare

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Organizing Your Life: To Do Lists (Being More Productive)

teacher avatar Taylor Bruno, Organization Aficionado

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Being More Productive With To Do Lists


    • 2.

      The Purpose of To Do Lists (be more productive and less stressed)


    • 3.

      Types of To Do Lists and How to Use Them


    • 4.

      How to Write an Effective To Do Item


    • 5.

      High and Low Tech Tools To Use


    • 6.

      How to Form a Habit


    • 7.

      Wrapping It All Together


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About This Class

We've all heard of and probably used To Do lists, but learning about the different types of To Do lists and how you should/shouldn't use them together will help you be more productive and actually feel like you're accomplishing what is on your list. In this class, I’ll walk through some of the ins and outs of To Do list types, provide example lists, show you tools you can use to keep your lists (spoiler: I like pen and paper for one type of list), and guide you on how best to write To Do list items.

I am a software designer and organization is my life. I use a number of tools and methods to keep track of business projects as well as my personal life. I genuinely think the world would be a better place if everyone had better organization and I’m here to show you how!

Writing and managing To Do lists is the key focus of this class, and while it builds on some of my other classes, it is not necessary to watch those first. This course will teach valuable skills to help you more efficiently get things done. If you’re interested in learning more about time management, financial management, or project management tools check out my other classes on Skillshare by clicking on my profile.

To learn more about me, visit:

Meet Your Teacher

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Taylor Bruno

Organization Aficionado


I am a software designer at Netflix and organization is my life. I use the productivity tools to keep track of business projects and my personal life. I genuinely think the world would be a better place if everyone had better organization!

I live in Los Angeles with my husband and using the tools and methods I teach about, we managed our own 4-month home renovation with a team of contractors and we host elaborate dinner parties, themed TV premier parties, and game nights.

I'm always up for an organizational challenge or a good cup of tea, so feel free to reach out with any questions!


Check out my website to learn more about me and to subscribe to my mailing list to be notified when I publish new classes and share other organization ... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Being More Productive With To Do Lists: this course is about reducing stress and getting more done by using a simple and powerful tool. The to do list. Most of us have used to do lists, but you may not have spent the time to understand what a to do list is and how it works. I'll be giving you a practical guide to managing your to do list. By taking this course, you'll gain both practical tools as well as the right state of mind. To accomplish everything you need to get done. I'll explain various ways to create and manage lists so you can utilize a lightweight method that works for you. Having a method that works for you is the key to success, and for that reason, I suggest you experiment with the tools and tricks I give you and adapt them to your schedule in style. In this course, I'm going to talk about the purpose of to do lists, types of lists and how to use them. How to write effective list items, tools to keep an organized to do lists, both tech and non tech tools, and how to create habits and apply them first A bit about me. I'm a product designer and Netflix and have been fortunate enough to work in multiple industries, including health care, finance and information security companies of all different sizes. I even founded my own company and financial technology, and all of these experiences have shaped the way that I think about getting things done both at work and in my personal life. Apart from working in fast paced environments, my husband and I are working on a bunch of passion projects that we love building. I'm looking forward to sharing my methodologies with you so that you can be more productive at work and in your home life. In the next lesson, I'm going to explain in more detail why to do lists are so powerful and how they could improve your life. 2. The Purpose of To Do Lists (be more productive and less stressed): to do lists can either be a list of unrelated items that we want to accomplish today, this week or later this year. Or it could be specific steps to complete a larger project. In both cases, to do lists are effective tools for removing the mental burden of remembering what you have to dio, as well as effective methods of breaking down larger concepts into smaller, actionable items. For example, have you ever had a large project or goal in front of you? And with so much to do, you don't even know how to start. This is the perfect time to understand the steps involved in that project and right out of to do list that gives you a manageable guide on where to start. As another example. Have you ever struggled to fall asleep or woken up at 2 a.m. With thought you just can't shake for me, it's usually something I need to do or realizing I made a mistake rather than struggling through it, I write myself a to do item or multiple to do items, which helps my mind let go of the thought and get back to sleep because I have a reliable to do list method. I'm comfortable writing down an idea and knowing that it won't be forgotten or misplaced and that all address it with a clearer mind next morning. This helps me fall back asleep quickly and easily. It's easy to become distracted or stuck when you're keeping too many thoughts in your head at the same time. So use an organized to do with to translate your thoughts and free up mental space. By writing down what you need to dio, you'll be able to stay more focused and get more done. However, it's not enough just to write something down. You need to write it in a place that's consistent and manageable, and you need to write in a way that helps you move more quickly. More details on that to come in the next lesson, I'm going to give you an overview of different types of to do lists and when and how to use each one 3. Types of To Do Lists and How to Use Them: not all to do lists accomplish the same purpose. I'm going to break down three main types of to do lists and give you examples of some of the tools and applications you can use. And I'll also tell you how I use some of these tools. The three main types of to do lists are the traditional to do list, short term lists or what I'm going to do right now and project lists. The traditional lists are the most common type and are a collection of all of the items we want or need to do in the coming days, weeks or even months. They can be long and overwhelming. Here's an example of a traditional to do list. They're also characterized by the fact that the items on the list are not all related and may even include both personal and work items. Think of this list as evergreen, meaning it's your single source of truth for the items that you want to accomplish sometime in the future. I personally like to break my lists into a work list on a personal list. I keep my work list and personal list in the same place, but only looking at one at a time helps me manage my time at work and my time at home more effectively. You can check out my other course on time management for more tips and tricks related to time management. It's important that you put the list items in order of importance or what you plan on doing First, when you add a new task Dear list, you should put it in order with the other tasks, so that the most important tasks are always at the top. The next type of list is a short term list. These lists are usually the 3 to 5 most important items that you need to accomplish today and maybe related or may not be. It's a great habit to start your day by creating this list by taking items from your longer term list and writing them in a different place. I do not suggest making shorter term lis that last longer than one day, and it should have no more than five tasks. I also treat short term lists as temporary and time based. If I don't finish an item by the end of a specific time period that I moved the incomplete tasks back to my longer term list or to a new list that I will start working on the next day again. This list should be in order, so the most important items are on top. By using short term lists, I'm able to identify exactly what I need to accomplish in a day. Not only does this help me focus on the most important items, but it also lets me end the day feeling accomplished. When I complete three or more of the tasks I said, I would dio in the world that many of us live in. There's always more that we can dio. The reality is that you can't do everything in one day, so writing down a specific short term list and accomplishing it prevents you from getting into a pattern of trying to do too much. However, try not to beat yourself up if you don't complete anything on your list. It takes a lot of practice to figure out how much you can realistically tackle in any given day. And it could change on a day to day basis, depending on life's other priorities on surprises. Even if I wasn't able to cross anything off of my list. I will rewrite the list the following day, assuming that my priorities have not changed, The third main list type is a project list. Thes lists can be short term or long term, and every item on the list is related to accomplishing a larger task. They're also in order of what you need to accomplish. First Project lists often have dependencies, which means you have to complete some steps before you can complete the next steps. I like to use numbers rather than bullet points for project lists, because that tells me exactly what order I need to do. Something in project lists are the most powerful tool in being more productive, and I'll give specific examples in the next lesson. It's important to distinguish between these three types of lists and to not make some together. People often struggle to effectively get through to do it's because they do not know how to break them down into easier parts. Remember, traditional lists are everything on your mind in order of importance. Short term lists are for right now today, and project lists are all related tasks. The work towards a larger goal, another important concept to think about is that these lists are not exclusive of each other, meaning a single, larger project could be written on all three of these types of lists. You might have a large project on your traditional to do list that you've done right a project list for in order to break it down into smaller steps, the project list might take days or weeks to accomplish, so you may use short term list each day to make progress on that project. Try using these lists in conjunction with each other to stay focused. In the next lesson, I'm going to discuss the most important aspect of getting more done. How to write an effective to do list item. 4. How to Write an Effective To Do Item: an important skill to develop in order to improve the effectiveness of your to do list is to consistently right down to do items that are clearly accomplish a BLE, for example, Create a project plan. Spends 20 minutes writing a project plan. Create a list of the major tasks needed for the project plan. These are all the same task written with different levels of specificity. You're more likely to accomplish a task if you write your to do list with clear outputs. Have you ever heard the term smart goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based? Think of writing a to do item as a smart goal. Your task should be specific about what you're going to dio, and it should be a realistic thing that you can accomplish in a few minutes, or at least under a few hours. Your to do item should also include some planning as to how you're going to accomplish that item. I gave you an example of three similar tasks. The first task on this list create a project plan is a large and vague idea. When asked to complete this task, you'll need to spend a lot of time planning how to do it. Instead, get in the habit of quickly doing that planning When you're actually writing your to do list. Here's an example of what I might write. Instead of create a project plan, break a task down into multiple to do items, create a list of major tasks needed for the project plan right the tasks in order and highlight areas of dependency. Move the list of tasks into asana and add dates. Work with the team to assign owners to each task. Now, my to do list is much more specific about what I need to dio, and each item on the list is reasonably sized so that I can easily picture what it looks like to accomplish it. When we write very large and difficult to do items, our brains glaze over when we look at them. We think I don't even know where to start, or I don't have time to do that right now. And as a result, the to list item will keep getting skipped over and may never get done by writing more specific to do items. You accomplish two goals. First, you've done the hardest part of any work which is figuring out what you even need to dio. And second, you're now less likely to get stuck or waste time working on things that aren't important. Your brain will be focused on a specific, manageable task and not distracted by all the other work that you need to dio. A particularly powerful application of project lists is when you need to pause a task in progress. You can use a project list to write down the specific next steps you need to take so that the next time you restart that task, you'll quickly gain momentum and get back into the state of the flow. This works the other way as well. If you're nearing the end of time, you have left toe work on the project. You can intentionally stop at a point when you have clear next steps. Otherwise, if you stopped working on a project when you finish a task or get stuck, then you'll still be stuck. The next time you try and start, you'll have to spend time just figuring out what to do next, rather than just doing it in summary right specific to do list items that have a clear action and are small enough to understand exactly what you need to dio. So now that you understand what to do, lists are and how to write effective to do items, the next lesson is going to cover some of the tools that you can use to write down and access your list easily. 5. High and Low Tech Tools To Use: There are so many tools that exist for writing to do lists, and I use a number of them interchangeably. I'm going to talk about a few tools you can use, and I suggest you experiment to find the right tool that works best for you. Some examples are physical posted notes writing in a notebook. Whiteboard, your email inbox. Asana work flowy Evernote An Apple notes. When writing something down quickly, you might even consider writing an email to yourself or adding it directly to your calendar . Personally, I use a combination of Apple notes, my notebook, my email inbox and occasionally posted notes. Apple notes is particularly useful for me because my computer and my phone our sink together. I use my phone to add to do items, often when I am walking or on the subway, and remember something I should do or have an inspirational moment about how I should do something. Then I got most of my work done on my computer. It's really powerful for me to have the same notes available in real time on both devices because I rarely lose track of an idea or concept, Apple notes is my source of truth, you should try and find the one tool or method you use that can be most effective for you. I believe it is extremely important for this tool tore method to be simple and flexible, and I advise against trying to use a new app. To do this, try and find something you already used to create the source of truth for yourself. You're much more likely to keep using something that is already part of your everyday life for project lists. I often use asana, which is a great source for getting more done. Check out my other class that focuses specifically on using asana as a task management tool toe. Learn more about how to use it or if I'm sitting down for four hours and I want to stay focused. I will write down three items from my Apple notes to do lists onto a physical posted note. To create a short term to do list. I'll close apple notes, which helps me remove everything else on that list from my mind and focus only on getting those three items done during the block of time that I have available. Remember, you should write down clear and specific tasks so that when you're in the flow, you have clear to do items. There's nothing wrong with using low tech pen and paper as your to do list method. Just make sure that you can keep track of the paper and that it is easy to organize. I often use pen and paper for short term lists because they are temporary and small. I've tried using pen and paper for traditional to do lists, and I've found that they get messy with changes or they get misplaced over time. I also want to mention Google Keep and Evernote, which are to to do list that I know many people use. I personally do not use thes because I try and limit the number of applications. I have to try to minimize my noise from technology, but I know that they're effective for other people. I suggest trying them out as part of your tool exploration. In summary, there are a lot of options for which tools you can use to keep lists, experiment with a few different tools and pick one that is easy and familiar to you. In the next lesson, I'm going to talk about forming habits and how that relates to writing and finishing to do lists 6. How to Form a Habit: you need to be in the habit of using your to do list. This means that you should use a consistent method for writing to do list items that are clear and actionable, and you should reference your list often. Some people say that it takes three days in a row to form a habit. My to do list tab. It involves starting my day by checking my traditional list and writing a short term list that I referenced throughout the day, as well as quickly adding detailed items to my to do list. At the moment, I think of, um, I am also in the habit of writing down a project list for anything that has multiple steps to complete, even if I know exactly what I need to dio. I write it down often in the middle of working on something, I'll lose momentum or get distracted, and I'm always thankful I wrote down a project list to reference and get back on track. So how do you create this habit? You're essentially retraining your brain, so you need to overcompensate it. First. Put some kind of structure around your to do list to get in the habit of checking it. Maybe that means setting an alarm or calendar reminder to check your list every morning. It could also be putting your list somewhere physically so that you can't miss it. For example, some people put their to do list on the mirror so that they can skim over in the morning while brushing their teeth or getting ready for the day. You're going to have to be intentional about using your to do list at first. Eventually you'll find a method that works for you, and it will become second nature in the next and final lesson. I'm going to pull together everything we've talked about so far, and then we're going to put these new skills into action. 7. Wrapping It All Together: Here's a quick summary of what we just covered related to to do lists to do lists. Help remove mental burdens and figure out what to do next. There are three main types of lists. Traditionalists, short term lists and project lists. Writing list items in a clear and manageable way. The first time helps you take action on your list quickly by detail ing each item with a specific action or output while keeping the list small enough to keep your mind focused and not distracted. Which can help when you pause tasks so that you always have clear next steps. Use a tracking method that works for you no matter how high or low tech, and finally create a habit and mindset that allows you to complete tasks effectively. Your to do list method will evolve as your needs change, and that is OK as long as you have the principles for writing lists and good items than the specific tools or methods you use are less important. I suggest checking out some of my other courses to learn more about organization and getting more done. My husband calls me the master of organization and is convinced that I'm more focused and productive than anyone who's ever met before. I just like to think that my courses do a good job of explaining the methods that I've found to be successful and enables me to share the tricks I used to accomplish so much. Also, be sure to complete the course project to start forming your habit today. Thanks.