To Do List Tips

It will come as no surprise that I love a good to-do list. Here are three reasons why:

1. They keep you organized- dur.

There are an infinite number of ways you can fill the hours of your day. Making a to-do list helps you to prioritize which tasks are most essential, and it helps you to stay focused on carrying out those tasks.

2. They are a fantastic remedy for anxiety

There are few things more anxiety-causing than constantly worrying about the things you need to get done. These thoughts attack at random and at usually the most inopportune times, such as the instant you’re about to drift into slumber. By writing a list, you alleviate yourself of a great deal of that anxiety.

3. They are a giant pat on the back

Crossing things off your to-do list feels freaking great.

With that in mind, here are some to-do list tips:

Determine what kind of to-do-er you are

There are as many formats of to-do lists as there are people in this world. Your first task is to determine what format works best for you. Try a few. See what feels most natural. Maybe it’s an electronic list, an iPhone app, a rotating post-it note chart, a good old fashioned paper draft.

Once you hit your sweet spot list-wise, stick to it. That means: don’t use five versions where one will do. Don’t use old, crumpled dry cleaning receipts and backs of envelopes just because they are within reach. You are only allowed one format in play at a time. Devote yourself to it. Love it. Shower it with praise- er, ink.

Drafting la list

1. BE REALISTIC. Really take some time to think about what you are going to be able to accomplish on any given day. Write down only those things.

You might think that it’s beneficial to just go ahead and jot down every single task you know you’ll need to attend to in the next six months. Actually, I tend to think that doing so is detrimental to your productivity.

To-do’s go the way of to-don’t when they make us feel like we’re really sucking at life (read: not accomplishing our goals). Having a massive to-do list weighted down by longer term goals that you can’t and won’t carry out on a daily basis can feel incredibly demoralizing.

You know yourself. You know what you are capable of, and how lazy productive you are. Let that be your guide for how many things and what kinds of tasks to put on that list.

2. Categorize where you please

You may wish to keep separate lists for different types of tasks, or simply use separate headings/groupings on one list. As mentioned above, one of the main categories that I recommend distinguishing between are everyday tasks and long-term goals. Don’t confuse the two, and don’t lump them together. You may also wish to separate work tasks from home tasks, home tasks from beach home tasks, and so on. Use your judgement, and categorize where you see fit.

2. Break it down

Some tasks require many actionable steps. For instance “Get birthday present for Audrey” may actually involve “buy birthday present,” “buy wrapping supplies and a card,” wrap gift,” “write out card,” “ship gift.” I recommend writing out all these smaller steps. Doing so can make large tasks much more manageable.

3. Cross it off!

As per the back-patting reference above, nothing feels more satisfying than being able to check off items from your to-do list. True story: there are some days when I neglect to write out a list ahead of time. In that case I will more often than not write out a list after the fact of all the things I already attended to that day- just for the sheer glory of being able to cross them off. I kid you not. May sound silly, but it feels great to be able to see what you accomplished, and it’s helpful to be able to reference these lists later.

(Hint: you should be able to cross off most of the items from your to-do list on a daily basis. If not, you’re either being way too lazy, or you’re not doing the to-do right.)

Make time for love

Don’t let the time you spend with your list be random or seldom. Decide on a time when you will regularly sit down to go over your to-do. Perhaps mornings will be your time; you can wake up fresh and jot down all the things you want to get done that day. Or maybe you’ll prefer to craft them the night before. Whatever works best for you, so long as you continually show that list love. During this time you’ll also want to look back over your list from yesterday. Roll over any tasks that you didn’t manage to accomplish onto your new list.

* * *

There you have it twinkies! My to-do list tips. Now, I would love to hear:

What’s your take on the old list? Love ’em? Loath ’em? Tips of your own… ’em? Do tell!

Image credits: Cupcakes and Cashmere, Wit and WhistleThe Dainty Squid, SFGirlbyBay, ArielAshley Ann Photography



  1. Oh Annie this was a great post ! I have really be slacking on my to-lists. Blame it on summer I guess!! But now after reading this post I will make a real effort this week to cross off everything on my to do list! Thanks for posting this !!

  2. I use my iPhone to make my lists and as a backup I use a dry erase/planner so that it’s staring back at me or if I accidentally delete something on my phone.


    • The iphone route is definitely convenient and smart, because you’ll have your list on you no matter where you go. Also Love that you have a backup.

  3. I totally love making lists. I’ve been doing them my whole life. And I have to actually write them down. For some reason I can’t just type them in my phone. They’ll never get accomplished that way. Last year when I was at the beach house I kept forgetting to bring a note pad so I’d have to write my lists on random pieces of paper and that drove me crazy. This year I have a magnetic pad on the fridge there and I write on it every day :)

    Have a great weekend, Annie! xoxo

    • I’m with you— I havee to write them out, otherwise it doesn’t feel real haha. Perfect solution for the beach house- love it!

  4. Great post! And so true…to-do lists get me motivated to get things done!

  5. I’m a massive fan of To Do lists! And you’re right, they’re a great stress-buster! Makes you feel organised and in control :)

    Life Etc

    • They totally do, right?! When it get it all out of paper you don’t have to worry about things just floating around in your head anymore. Definitely helps you feel more in control.

  6. lchasse says:

    I notice my day is much more productive when my day begins with making a short to-do list. When I do not make the list, things seem to get off track a lot faster. The list ends up being a checklist, but also a priorities list.

    • Yes!!! I love that you said that- it really is so much about prioritizing as well as just straight task-listing. Some people recommend writing out two drafts of your list– the first to write down everything you want to do, and the second to order those things by importance.

Thanks for taking the time to comment! I love hearing from you!

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