7 Ways to Write a Better To-Do List and Get More Done


Nothing feels better than a freshly written to-do list. When you look down and see that list of what you want to get done today, it seems like anything is possible. However, most people tend to put a few quick and easy items at the top of their list to start the day off right. Or maybe they include an errand they’ve already done as a little motivation booster for themselves. After knocking off a few of the easy tasks they might take a social media break or get a cup of coffee. But when they get back to their desks, there are probably a half dozen emails that need responses. So, as a result, by the time most people leave the office, they haven’t got to any of the important things at the bottom of the to-do list tomorrow.

And the next day, they continue making the same mistake of jotting a few simple things at the top of the list.

Why To-Do Lists Are Important

Making a to-do list is one of the easiest ways to manage tasks. However, as we’ve stated above, most people don’t know their way around it.

What can a quality approach to to-do list creation give you? It is an opportunity to control what you do during the day, what you need to work on, and what can be postponed. You will be able to do what you need to do on time, prioritizing things based on the importance and urgency of the cases.

By assessing the situation based on your current workload, you will be able to decide what to spend your time on. A to-do list will also help you deal with your emotions, thus eliminating the stress of decision-making. Being effective means doing more of the right things in less time.

‘You can always change your plan, but only if you have one. I’m a big believer in to-do lists. It helps us break life into small steps’ – Head of Data Research and Content at Linksmanagement.

But how effective is your to-do list? Does it help with planning? Does it help you facilitate? Sadly, but for most people, it’s just a never-ending list of things that induces guilt. No worries, there are some ways that can help you become a pro at to-do lists writing and boost your productivity.

7 Ways to Write a Better To-Do List

According to neurologists, there are two main things that you should consider before creating a do-to list. First and foremost, for a to-do list to be really effective, it has to aim at two things. First, it has to push us to do our most important work, and second, it has to tell us exactly how to get that work done. Now that we’ve stated the backbone of a to-do list let us get into 7 steps that will supercharge your planning.

1. Write a stretch goal at the top

Instead of writing simple or ready things first, consider putting a stretch goal first. A stretch goal is an ambition or a task that’s so big that you can’t check it off right away. It should be something great that taps into a bigger ambition. As you tap into a bigger ambition, you spark your sense of innovation. However, if you have a whole list of stretch goals, it’s terrifying and discouraging. This brings us to the next step.

2. Include a smart goal underneath the stretch goal

A smart goal is usually a small part of a stretch goal that takes it through the process. It encourages you to take a sub-goal and assess your success and progress. It should be achievable, realistic, measurable, and schedule-planned. In fact, SMART here stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, or relevant and time-based. By stating smart goals underneath, you give yourself a plan, thus boosting your productivity.

3. Organize your tasks according to the energy required

If you work best at certain times, rank your tasks according to the energy needed to complete them. As no tasks were created equal, some of them may be a bit more energy-consuming. An energy-based ranking works wonders since we can always tell how we’re feeling energy-wise. Implementing this technique helps you proceed with tasks even when you’re not feeling up to certain assignments.

However, this type of ranking means being honest with yourself. If you’re feeling your best, you have to complete high-energy things and vice versa. A few low energy tasks can sometimes give you the momentum to tackle the bigger fish. 

4. Group things by urgency and importance

A well-known model for time management is the Eisenhower matrix supposedly used by the former president and popularized today. According to the model, any task can be judged on two factors: how important a task is and to what extent the task is urgent. This results in a matrix being formed with four quadrants depending on where a task falls within this matrix.

Thus, tasks that are both important and urgent are to be done as soon as possible. Tasks that are urgent but not important can be delegated. For tasks that are important but not urgent, we can make a completion schedule by putting them on our calendar to be handled later. And then last, there are tasks that are really neither important nor urgent. This matrix helps prioritize tasks that you include in your to-do list.

5. Give each task a block of time on your schedule

If your days seem like they are getting away from you, including a time-based context in your to-do list is a smart move. This tip is quite simple and boils down to assigning a specific time of the day for a task. For example, instead of ‘doing calls,’ try writing ‘do morning calls’.

6.  Keep your planning simple

We are all busy people here and are swamped with work and chores every day. This is basically what this article is about. So the intimidation to write lengthy to-do lists is very high. However, one should keep in mind that such lists much rather discourage us instead of giving much-desired motivation and stimulus to have everything done on time. Prioritize, break your tasks into several lists, and keep your productivity at the required level. 

7. Schedule for tomorrow at the end of the day

Scheduling the night before helps you unwind and let go of the nagging feeling in your head. It also means you won’t have to run them over and over through your mind trying to fall asleep or frantically think about all the tasks and then scribble them down in a hurry.

The Bottom Line

If you think that to-do lists are no longer a thing, you’ve never compiled the right ones. A do-to list can become a life-saver if written properly. First and foremost, it is the main driver for organizing your life. It can make all your tasks much more manageable and make you feel grounded. Seeing a clear outline of your completed and uncompleted tasks will help you get your thoughts together and stay focused.

Marie Barnes is a contributing writer and a reviewer for GearYoda. She is an enthusiastic blogger interested in writing about technology, social media, work, travel, lifestyle, and current affairs. Follow her on Medium.