Guidelines on how to write an effective To Do List

Whether you freelance, work in an office, a large organisation (or small) being able to put together an organised To Do List is your saviour for, 1. Staying sane and 2. Being as productive as you can be. With work demands and endless deadlines becoming more prevalent in our busy workplaces trying to keep on top of things may seem unachievable. But the ability to use a To Do List properly  that actually works is increasingly important.

We all love ticking off tasks from our lists, but we can't help but feel unmotivated when there are so many things to get done with what seems like an never ending list. So how do you write one? Ultimately, it’s about prioritising and organising, so that time is utilised effectively and you can take that coffee break you so well deserve.

So here are some tips and tricks to create the ultimate list that won’t have you avoiding the task/s at hand. It’s also about creating the right environment and using the most effect tools for you to keep your work life in order. There is something about writing a list that not only prioritises the most important, but it also plays a huge role in your mind, because let’s face it not all of us have extraordinary memories and we do forget things from time to time. To Do Lists are foolproof, if you write it down, you won’t forget!

You need to use a notebook or notepad that you are going to want to pick up every day. Make it a design that is going to suit your needs – sleek and stylish, compact to fit in your bag – make it something that you get motivated to use and feel good about when you write your lists. While you are at it get yourself a good pen (because who doesn’t love some beautiful stationery) that makes you excited to tick off all those completed tasks. If the old school way of putting pen to paper is not your thing, use your phone or device that is going to make making lists as simple (and enjoyable) as possible.

Because I am the ultimate stationery addict I have created my own To Do List, The Agenda. An essential notepad with daily schedule checklist with its sleek black cover and features gold foil embossed typography, perfect for the minimalist stationery lover. Shop here.

Make sure that your desk or workspace is decluttered or else you will start your day feeling as cluttered in your mind as your space. Try to make a habit of cleaning up at the end of each day so that everything is in its place when you arrive back at your desk the next day. It will ensure that you start your day with a clean mind set and can get straight into work, rather than waste precious time cleaning.

I think we can all be culprits of sleepless nights overthinking all the things you have to get done. Write a To Do List the night before, it will get all your thoughts out, the tasks that you need to get done so you can get that much needed sleep time. Also, when you get to work in the morning you will have your list ready to go so you can get started immediately.

No need to make lists complicated. Keep it specific and simplify your tasks. Try to keep the list to 10 per day as to not overwhelm yourself (keep the larger – first list you wrote down tucked away). A good way to keep your list organised is to categorise into ‘top priorities’, ‘follow up’ and ‘reminders’. Your ‘tasks’ can then be easily outlined and prioritised.

When we generally write a list we write everything down in no particular order and just get it out of our minds and on to paper. Great start, but then you need to create another list! Use your first list to separate these tasks into two – from the most important, that you need to achieve that day and then other tasks that can wait (till tomorrow or later in the week). Paying attention to the first tasks at hand means we aren’t wasting time on things that aren’t as high priority. We can all be culpits of avoiding that one task that should get done, so suck it up and get it done, then you can move on.

Make a new list everyday. If your list becomes overwhelming, try reapproaching it and categorise and prioritise your tasks. Writing a new list everyday not only gets your headspace in the mode of ‘getting shit done’ but also avoids the old ones getting lost and congested among others. Also, you might find that you are rewriting one task that has get to get done all week, it might be time to actually get it done!

Guidelines on how to write an effective To Do List- Design By Aikonik - black and white

If time is against you and you also have a diary or schedule that is butting heads with your To Do List, allocate time for each task. I good tip is to write down next to each task how long (approximately) it should take to achieve. This should then give you an idea of where these tasks can fit into your schedule and give you no excuse of not getting them done.

Make sure you write it down. If it’s on paper or scheduled in your phone you have to do it. Whether its booking in a gym session, picking up a coffee from your favourite café, a short walk in the sunshine, pick some time in your day that will leave you feeling energised and a good headspace to come back to work and smash out more tasks on your list. Use this time to ‘switch off’, don’t check your emails or even your list!

With email notifications constantly being a distraction on our computers and phones they can also be a huge disruption to getting important tasks done. You might start your day getting a few urgent emails sent out, but then set time to check them again, or wait until your first priority task is completed before replying. Emails can become very consuming and a hard habit to break, turn off your notifications if you are easily tempted. But you will be amazed how more efficiently you can complete a task if you aren’t distracted.

We always look at the small tasks and assume these are simple but can very easily become complicated and take up more time than anticipated. Be aware of the time and energy each task will take and prioritise which task is more important and can get done efficiently.

At the end of each day re-evaluate your To Do List. See what you haven’t done and the new tasks have accumulated throughout the day. Reprioritise this list ready for the next day so you know what exactly needs to get done. Also re-evaluating means to look at all the tasks you have ticked off, give yourself a pat on the back, look what you achieved!



2 thoughts on “Guidelines on how to write an effective To Do List”

  1. Loving these tips! I recently started writing to-do lists to help me as I write my thesis. Breaking down the items in these categories is a great idea. I end up focusing on less important things to try to cross more off my list, when I need to make sure I’m tackling the bigger things with enough time and energy. Thanks for this post!


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