Strategies to Create Better and More Effective To-Do Lists

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Writing a to-do list has the potential to transform your working day: it helps you work smarter and stay focused on what’s important.  In this way, the humble list has a role to play in helping us all find a better work-life balance.  Business Optimizer shares some tips on how to ensure your to-do lists are the best and most effective they can be.

Even high-tech entrepreneurs are big fans of the paper list – just ask Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey!  And while there may be a myriad of digital tools to help you plan your day, here at Business Optimizer we’re still big fans of traditional pen and paper.

Creating paper to-do lists brings many benefits:

  • Checklists can help you reduce errors, organise and prioritise tasks, and work more effectively
  • Paper gives you the freedom to structure your to-do list in the way that works best for you
  • It’s really satisfying to physically tick or scratch something off your to-do list
  • You can keep a record of everything you have achieved.

If you believe in the power of to-do-lists but haven’t figured out how to create successful ones, here are 6 tips that will help you organize your ideas into concrete goals while being more productive by creating effective (and powerful) must-do lists.

#1. Work out the best structure for you

Creating a to-do-list is something pretty personal.  First, it’s important to recognise that different strategies will work for different people.  How you absorb information and your preferred way of working will affect your choice of optimal to-do list layout.

#2. Consider the bullet journal

One method that’s really having a moment is bullet journaling.  It might seem complex at first, but it’s actually very simple to get started and helps you plan both long-term and short-term goals.

Its fans swear by its simplicity in helping you focus on what’s important.  To do this, bullet journaling organises your to-do list into four separate sections:

  • A main index – so that you can easily find your brilliant ideas without having to flip through dozens of pages.
  • A future planner – so that you can plan ahead with deadlines and events.
  • A month planner – so that you can plan tasks and events for the month.
  • A daily planner – effectively, your immediate ‘to-do’ list.

#3. Keep it short

And simple.  List creation should be realistic, so you won’t be intimidated by the long list of “to-dos” and give up before you’ve begun.

To keep it short, before you start writing your to-do list, first think hard about what you will add to it.  Are you adding tasks that you could easily delegate to someone else?  Is it possible that some of these tasks don’t need to be completed at all?

#4. Get it done

Be kind to yourself: make sure you have enough time in your schedule to focus on the tasks on your list – otherwise you’re setting yourself up to fail.  Say no to inessential meetings.  Black out hours in your diary when you can focus on specific tasks.

#5. Eat the frog

Some experts suggest tackling the most difficult job on your list first.  This way, you start the day on a high; everything else on your to-do list for the rest of the day will seem like a breeze.

#6. Tick things off as you achieve them

There’s nothing better to inspire you to succeed than a sense of achievement.  Ticking completed tasks off your to-do list is a fantastic reward in itself!


Discover more ways paper can help you succeed at work: read more here.