How to write a better To-Do list

07-18-2018_Goals Series - 3 To-do

Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

In this article of the Goal Digger series, I thought I’ll share with you how a little tweak to my method of writing my TO-DO list set me up for success.



I have been making a to-do list every day for as long as I can remember. I often find small post-its stuck to odd things, at the bottom of my laptop bag, purse, in the back pocket of my jeans and occasionally in old novels and journals. So, it’s safe to say that what I am about to share today is out of my experience which is ever changing and improving. I’d like for you to take from this what works for you and build upon that.


We all make to-do lists. You can disagree with me but hold on, you do, even if it is in your head, you are making them all the time. To-do lists keep us on track and make sure you are getting things done and achieving your goals. But we all struggle with remembering things, and if you write down your to-do list like me, you may often find yourself carrying them forward and re-writing them daily. It’s frustrating and very demotivating.


So how do you write a to-do list that is not intimidating and sets you up for success?


Where to write them?

Depending on your personal preference and your lifestyle it’s important to figure what works for you, a digital to-do list may be on your phone or computer or you prefer to use pen and paper. I find that the physical act of writing down my to-do list a stress buster. I keep a running list of all the things that pop in my head at odd hours of the day on my phone, but I need to write down the to-do list by hand.

So, you have to figure out what works for you. If you have a desk that you can access at all times making a physical to-do list makes sense, but if you are out and about all the time and you don’t want to be carrying a diary/journal with you, a digital one is more practical.


Keep it simple.

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There are many apps and planners out there that are fancy, almost a status symbol but unnecessarily complicated. If those work for you, that’s great! But if you feel overwhelmed with the thought of figuring out how to use the app or the planner then stick with a simple planner/app. Something that allows you to put things down the way it works for you. A simple notebook will get the job done.


Make a list.

I don’t make a to-do list every day. Yes! That’s right. I don’t. It does not work for me. Back when I was, I would have a million things on my list, and at the end of the day I would have done about 3-5 things from that list and I would just re-write everything else plus new ones for the next day. It wasted so much time, and it did not do anything for my confidence.


Like I mentioned I have a running to-do list for the things that crop up and I have my goals, micro-goals, and tasks written down. (You can read more about that in my How to set and accomplish your goals.) So at the beginning of the week, I write down my to-do list for that week and not for the day. With moving factors and if I am dependent for someone else for an input, the weekly to-do list helps me stay flexible. I also use the Eisenhower Matrix to identify which tasks need to be done first and what can be done on my lunch break.

Every day I pick three things, and once I have completed those, then I take the next three and then the next. And at the end of the week I most have everything check off or only a handful that needs to be carried forward. It also allows me to look at the week at a glance and factor in if I am required elsewhere on certain days (like at a meeting or the kid’s school) then I can pick up the slack on other days.




While making a list be clear. If you need to work on a project, write down, albeit, in short, which project, what tasks, etc. If you need to pay a bill, which bills how much. If it's planning a vacation, where you are going what bookings need to be done. You get the point, right?!

Be clear and write down exactly what needs to be done.


At the end make sure your to-do list is just as S.M.A.R.T. as your goals, after all these are working towards achieving them.


When in doubt ask yourself if a task is working towards your goal. Is it important to you on a personal level? What if you don’t do it? How will that affect you? Is it the best time to do it? And most importantly, does it need to get done today?


So, there you have it. This is how I make my to-do list every week.



I hope this helps you.



Next, in this goal series, I will share some of the apps that help me with my personal efficiency.


Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you, do you make a to-do list, if yes, what is your process? Leave me a comment below and let's get the conversation started.

This is part of the Goal Digger series: How to Set and Accomplish Your Goals | How to Break up with Procrastination in 4 Steps. You can also buy the I am a Goal Digger - A Goal Setting Workbook (Affiliate Link allows me to produce free content for you just like this one)