To-do lists and projects. Love them, hate ‘em, we cannot live without them. Yet, I find that, more often than not, we tend to royally misunderstand what projects and tasks truly are.

I believe to-do lists and apps are doing it all wrong. There, I said it. When asking to both clients and friends, the main reason why we feel almost physically sick opening our to-do list is because we can see a usually rather long list of tasks flashing in our face due today (or worse, overdue).

This is very much a chicken-and-egg situation.

We could blame the to-do lists for following a “calendar” based approach, but we could also argue that it’s the way the workspace (and we can wage even education) has taught us how to work.

Our todos and tasks are still based on a deadline rather than our goals

Do not get me wrong, there is a place for deadlines, as well as allocated tasks – I, for example, segment my days to better known when I am going to be focusing on what area of my business (more on this in the meeting section).

Nevertheless, I do believe that a system based on projects and progression should be at the core of our productivity ladder, and that clearly understanding the semantics – oh my dear old friend – and the meaning behind some terms linked to projects and tasks can increase your productivity tenfolds.

Let’s say you are ready to set a goal for next month, what would be the BEST way, hierarchically, to go about it?

I am so glad you asked. Here’s how we can compartmentalise different areas of a project in a fun and not-so-daunting way (you are welcome).

I recommend you getting a notepad and some paper for this – or you can just download this handy template.

Map your projects

First, you’ll need to write down your big, bold overarching goal, think about what you are trying to achieve longer term. This is the boldest dream, the biggest obstacle you may be looking to overcome.

As I am a lover of spreadsheets, I would set it up one template – oh, and guess what, I have a handy one just for you below.

Goals: What results do you ultimately want to achieve over a specific long-term period. For example, what growth target do you want to aim for over the next year?

Objectives: The smaller targets that will get you closer to your main goals. For example, what level of growth should you be striving for this month?

Strategies: How will you achieve your objectives? For example, what marketing strategy will generate the required growth you need?

Priorities: Identify the most effective actions that will make your strategy a success in the next short-term timeframe. In this case, you may think about investing time in email marketing to supercharge growth and making time to implement it in the next quarter.

Actions: Also known as tasks. These are the everyday work that will ultimately get you to your goals. Think about these as your actual tasks – yes, we got there in the end.

On a practical level, what I tend to do is suggest a list or platform that allows a folder or label system, so that you can label tasks under one specific project, and archive projects you completed.

I’ve observed that many people who think they are writing a task still manage to write actions that are too difficult to achieve within a short timeframe. A poorly chosen task will cause procrastination for the same reasons that a project-oriented to-do would.

This very simple way of breaking down tasks will seriously improve the way to approach your daily priorities, as well as allowing you to take a break and make the most of the time you rest.

There you have it. In order to plan projects more effectively, think about them as a funnel made out of building blocks.

These include:

  • Goals
  • Objectives
  • Strategies
  • Priorities
  • Actions

If you need more help to set this up for yourself, do not forget to check my new customisable template.