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5 Ways to Build a Better To-Do List

Build a better to-do list, typical office setup of desk, notebook, pen, computer, flower, chair

Can you imagine taking a long road trip and not having a map or a GPS system to guide you? Most of us have a general plan when we are going somewhere, whether it’s a routine trip to Target, a weekend away, or a trip of a lifetime. I like to think of a to-do list as a roadmap for your day.

Perhaps you are someone who adds things to your to-do list just so you can check it off, someone who only uses a to-do list during the crunch time of the holidays, someone who writes a list on scrap pieces of paper, or someone who relies on their steel-trap-like mind. A to-do list is a great way to stay on track so that you accomplish what you need to or want to.

I’ve seen to-do lists become overwhelming and even unmotivating because they have too many items on it, the lists have been forgotten or lost, or the lists are too inflexible. To-do lists help you accomplish what you need to do and can help you accomplish what you want to do.

This article is actually 2 parts. The 5 guidelines below are more philosophical. My free guide is implementational (and to get the guide, fill out the information in the pop up or navigate to the bottom of the page where there is a sign up form).

Here are 5 general guidelines that will help your to-do list work as a trusted tool.

1: Your daily to-do list should be a working document

There are plenty of things to do. I’ve never heard someone say “I wish I had more tasks and projects to complete”. I’ve found that the best to-do list is one that I will work on in one day. Once I limited the number of items on my to-do list to less than a handful of items, my purposeful productivity skyrocketed. I was getting the most important things accomplished at a much quicker pace.

2: Remove “someday” items from your to do list

I have things I want to do someday and some things I need to do today, I want to repaint my bathroom and wrap a birthday gift. At this point, wrapping the birthday gift is time sensitive, so it’s going on my to-do list. Repainting my bathroom is one of those household projects that can go on a household project list.

3: Experiment with digital and analog products

I love digital products, apps, software, technology… For my daily to-do list, I use a small notebook and write out my to-do list for the day. For other projects, I use a Trello board for home projects as well as my business, for work, and notes app/calendar on iPhone for other things.

4: Keep your daily to-do list short

I’ve found that keeping only a few must-do items on my list helps me from feeling overwhelmed, and more importantly, completing what I set out to do.Before this summer I would have 8 or 10 things on a perpetual to-do list. I now think of that as a project list. My daily to-do list is much shorter. In fact, if you would like my free guide to building a better to-do list, click here.

5: Learn to schedule your work based natural energy levels

I have an energy dip after lunch and for years I would try to counter that dip with caffeine or a nap or other methods or changing the types of food I eat at lunch. Now I honor that dip in energy. I use it for tasks that do not require as much clarity and focus. My energy levels rise around 3 pm and I can close out the workday strong. I’ve found that honoring my energy levels has made my productivity both purposeful and intentional. I’ve been using an app to track both my sleep levels and my energy levels. It’s a fascinating look at sleep science, how sleep impacts your energy levels throughout the day, and how to work with your energy levels for your best productivity levels. I like this app so much that I have even paid for it!


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