Inside: Are you writing to-do lists that don’t help you get things accomplished? Find out in this post how to write efficiently action-packed to-do lists.

If you are anything like me to do lists is an important part of your day. It’s what motivates you, keeps you on track and consistently gets you closer to your goals.

In the same time, if a to-do list is not crafted to work for you it can easily become counterproductive and you will feel like giving up.

As most of you know I started my Etsy shop out of my passion for planners and created different refills to last me a lifetime before I even started sharing them with you. 

One of my favourite refills has always been a to-do list and I keep a bunch of them at the back of my planner so I can always pull one out as I need it. For me, it’s the best and most efficient way to get organised with work-related things, my kid’s schedule, shopping, brainstorming ideas because they are so versatile.

For me, my entire life is planned in my planner.

I bring it with me everywhere. It just lives in my bag, and when I’m home, it lives on my desk.

If I pop into the supermarket I can always check what I meal planned for the week and shop for ingredients, if I need to make an appointment I can always see if there is anything planned for that day, because I have everything in one place.

My planner is my safe place to organise my life and it keeps me on track to achieve things that I couldn’t achieve in the past. It keeps me accountable, and for that alone, I love it.

In my planner, I would pull a to-do list next to each relevant category.

If I am working on a project for the blog and I have assignment and project planning inserts I would add a to-do list to expand if needed and get into more details.

If I am meal planning I could add it as a shopping list near the menu for the week.

And let me tell you this.

Our brains love lists.

It is something magical when a plan comes together and you nailed it. The sense of accomplishment, of keeping on top of your day.

How to write an efficient to do list 

Are your to-do lists looking something like this?

  • Blog post ideas
  • Pack my lunch for tomorrow
  • Birthday party
  • Website for Emma
  • Conference tonight

This is a perfect example of a bad to-do list.

What post ideas, cook what for dinner, birthday party at what time?

Now, amongst all these ambiguous tasks there is ONE winner.

One of these tasks is actionable and clear and that is…” pack my lunch for tomorrow “.

Why? Because it starts with a verb. You can do it in one go and cross it off your list and done!

That’s why when you craft your to-do list make sure you verbalise it.

To trigger you into action you must add a verb to it. Give it a meaning. from blog post ideas  -> brainstorm blog post ideas

If your actionable verb can’t be done in one sitting then it’s best to break it down even further.

So “website for Emma” will become:

  • Create an outline of things to implement in the new design
  • Email template to Carry for approval

It wouldn’t be enough to just say Build a website, you need to take it further and make it more specific. Split it into a couple more tasks that can be done in one sitting.

So whenever you find yourself writing big projects on your to-do list stop right there. It will overwhelm you and out you off and it will stay on the backlog until the night before.

Capture everything

You first need to identify all those things that are meaningful to you or important for you to get done or because other people are relying on it.

Start writing everything down otherwise you’re brain will keep bombarding you with don’t forget this, don’t forget this at random times.

Have everything in one place

No to-do list will be efficient if it’s scattered somewhere at the bottom of your purse, or in a place you don’t often check.

If you don’t already have a planner, grab a notebook and make it a go-to place to keep on top of your day. You need to leave space in your brain for creativity. 

A lot of the people are walking around constantly thinking about all the things they’re trying to manage and remind themselves about all the things are still left to do.

There is no reason to keep thinking about a thing twice.

When you do your brainstorming session that’s the time you need to allow for planning and allocating task, after that it’s all about picking up one task at a time and getting it done.

Mental hurry is not beneficial to anybody.

Make it simple, make it specific

If you have a long-term goal that you know it’s will take time, but you need to make incremental steps towards it start with those.

You have to clarify it.

If you find yourself writing things that are not specific and actionable stop right there. Is no point in just making some quick notes and make your day look busy and overwhelming.

Keep it simple and keep it short.

What exactly is the work you have to do? What does the work involve?

What’s the outcome?

Identify that and then set the next action. Always think what are you trying to accomplish and write down on your to-do list the exact way you’re going to accomplish it.

So before you start anything, define what the most important work is.

For example, if you need to “film a video for youtube” a better task will be: “Film the simplicity challenge and link to the free pdf”. This task looks more doable now. Try breaking the task further into doable actions and allocate it a time and a date for when that will get done.

I made my to-do list a self-managing system that can do the remembering for me and hold me accountable.

Now, you don’t need to keep thinking about those things and will take the mental juggling out of the picture.

Putting pen to paper and taking a few extra minutes to plan ahead your day but it will put you at ease and lets you complete tasks without wasting time.

Relling on your mind alone will not get you far. Your brain can remember you that you need to do something at 2 o’clock in the morning when it’s virtually impossible to do it or you already missed the deadline. Imagine multiplying that by a hundred and it will be difficult to even focus on a task because you keep getting bombarded with too many ideas.

Make sure you keep your system consistent and you do a review.

When you are happy with your to-do list it is time to relax.

When you know what your goal is, what the next action that you need to take you’ll start to experience stress-free productivity.

Now, as a bonus let me list the many different ways I found to do list helpful with.

  • Shopping list
  • Gratitude list
  • Braindump
  • Bills to pay
  • Meal planning
  • Personal goals
  • Books to read
  • Assignments to complete
  • Recipes to try
  • Financial – expense tracker, bills to pay, debt payments, saving charts, no spend activities,
  • Meal planning- shopping list, grocery list, meal ideas, recipe to try
  • Work/academic- project planner, assignments, meeting notes, brain dump, personal goals, emails to send, calls to make, appointments to attend.
  • Spiritual/religios- bible study, daily gratitude, prayer list, daily affirmations, ways to give back to the world
  • Home- house projects to do, gifts to buy, things to fix, errands to run, birthdays, important dates
  • Goals- 5-year goals, today’s top three,
  • Health and fitness- meditation tracker, fitness workouts,  self-care list.

Keep motivated and whenever you are feeling down just look back at your lists and see how much progress you did.

There are some days when I feel I didn’t accomplish anything. Just keep going. Once you make a plan, the next step is just to keep going and keep going and never ever quit until you get to where you wanted.

Now, it’s your turn. What are your favourite ways to use a to-do list? Share with me in the comments below!


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