Your to-do list is meaningless
Did that get your attention? Well good! Let's talk about to-do lists.
Do not get me wrong - I love a good to-do list. They keep me focused, I know what I need to work on, and I get *so* much satisfaction from ticking completed things off them. But. Without one other key element, to-do lists are going to do diddly-squat for that pile of work you've got.
Whatever you call it - calendar blocking, time blocking, self-appointments - the key to making a to-do list work is to ensure that you have blocked out time in your day / week / month to do it. This enables you to do two things:
1. It makes you put a time frame on a task. This helps you to see which tasks need more of your time, and which do not. You can then determine which 'frog' you need to eat first - get that important task done before the others.
2. You have to break bigger tasks down. You can't write a PhD in a day. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But you can find some papers and make notes, or format your reference list, or work on a couple of paragraphs of a chapter - these are more accessible tasks that you can place a realistic time frame on, which helps to address the overall task.
Below is a very rough draft of a week I have coming up, not yet complete, but I have the tasks I need to do blocked out in my calendar alongside teaching that is happening that week:
I know that everything in orange (my work calendar) is non-negotiable, and cannot be moved. This changes weekly, but I can work around it. I've taken out personal / private appointments for now. The purple items (my 'tasks' calendar) align with my to-do list for things I have to get done that week. Note - I leave gaps in my schedule, and time at the start/end of each day, in case things need moving around. If you want me to do a blog on how I set up my full calendar, do let me know.
I can promise you - if I didn't calendar block, I wouldn't get work done. I cannot see my priorities, I cannot see the allotted time, and it stresses me out. A little time spent before the start of a new work week makes all the difference to my productivity.