The Secrets to Creating Effective To-Do Lists

Our lives are full and on any given day you probably have a million things on your mind.  One way I love to decrease all that mind clutter is to write it down on a to-do list.  Writing it down signals my brain that I will get it taken care of and I don’t have to worry or think about it anymore.  So, what are the secrets to creating effective to-do lists?


The Secrets to Creating Effective To-Do Lists

write a daily to do list

Make Tasks Specific

 Make sure you are specific enough that you can accomplish the task in one day.  If you have a large project like sorting all of your photos.  Break that project down into bite-size daily pieces.  Little by little work adds up, especially when you give yourself the grace to do a little every day.  Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, what task can you do today that you will thank yourself for tomorrow?  What will move your needle in the right direction?  Put that on your to-do list. 


Do A Brain Dump.

Start by listing off all the things you need to.  If you are spring cleaning, what are all the areas you need to clean?  Write it all down first.  Then, work from that list to create. your daily to-do lists.


Make A Manageable List.

Keep the number of to-do list items manageable, preferably no more than 5 but ideally 3.  There’s nothing more defeating than creating a list and not completing it.  Depending on the season of life, choose a manageable number of items.  

If you have a bunch of items to do,  make a long-range to-do list.  Then, pick more time-sensitive items to do first and then come back to those bigger lists to pick for your daily list.


secrets to effective to do lists


Keep Your List Visible.

Choose a spot to keep your list.  I like to keep it in a weekly planner (like this) so that I can easily see what needs to be accomplished.  When it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.  The to-do list is only effective if you can see it.


Do the Item that’s Taking up Your Mind space First.

You know that thing you can’t stop thinking about that you need to do but you just keep putting off.  Just do that first and get it out of the way.  


Write Your To-Do List Down on Paper.

There’s something magical that happens when we actually put pen to paper and record our to-do list.  I have a digital calendar just like the rest of you but I have a weekly print planner open on my desk and write it down.  Studies show we are 2-3 times more likely to complete a task when we write it down.


Enjoy Crossing It Off.

When you complete a task, cross it off.  I don’t know about you, but it feels good to cross things off.  Sometimes, I add items to my to-do list I have already done just so I can cross it off!


Move Undone Items to Next Day.

If you don’t get all the items marked off your list, don’t beat yourself up. 

At the end of the day, move undone items to the next day.  Start with those items tomorrow.  Then, add to your list for the next day that way you can hit the ground running the next day when you have pockets of open time!


Remember to Delegate.

When we were kids, we would enjoy a family breakfast on Saturday mornings and my dad would pull out a napkin and write down our weekly chores on it.  Then, he would assign us each a job.  Many hands make light work and often times we assume we have to do it all.  Is there something on the list, you can delegate to someone else? 


Your Worth is Not In the To-Do List

When I first stayed home after a full-time job, I literally was lost.  It’s hard to measure success as a mom and so I turned to my to-do list. If I completed those things it was an effective day if I didn’t well then it was a bad day.  Never mind the fact that all the things I DID do.  

Remember, although todo lists are an extremely effective tool to increase productivity and help you to use your time purposefully, what you do or don’t check off a list does not define you!  Some days just don’t go how you expect them to go.  Remember, just move it to the next day!


to do list tips and tricks


Just remember this when it comes to creating effective to-do lists…

Be specific, keep it manageable, write it down on paper, and don’t forget to delegate.  While your worth is not defined on what you do or don’t accomplish on your to-do list, it is an effective tool to keep you on task, motivated and reaching toward those goals.  

If you are feeling like you don’t have enough time, check out my #1 productivity tip that will change your mindset when it comes to time.  Read more here.

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The secret to create effective to do lists

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