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How to Write a To Do List to Get Things Done

How to Write a To Do List to Get Things Done

Our lives are becoming increasingly busy and complex and the list of tasks we give ourselves each day is getting increasingly complicated too. Let’s find a way to simplify your To Do list so that you can prioritise and be more productive. Check out this post on how to write a To Do list to be effective and get things done.


In today’s busy world there always seems to be something to do, someone to see or somewhere to go. Our list of tasks seems to run on way longer than our day and usually carries over until tomorrow in one endless cycle.

Many of us pressurise ourselves to achieve too much in too short a space of time. Things happen that we hadn’t planned on, or they take longer than expected. So, we end up not getting everything done.

We add this item on to our list of jobs to do tomorrow and the cycle repeats itself.

Rinse and repeat.


Sometimes I also think we should stop and ask ourselves whether we’re busy because we need to be, or just busy for the sake of it? And, are we actually busy doing the right things?

If this is a question that you feel you need to explore further yourself, then check out my post on how to be intentional with your time.

  • Busy doesn’t mean we’re more important.
  • It certainly doesn’t mean we’re more fulfilled and our lives aren’t more valuable or value-adding than the person next to us who has less to do.
  • Busy doesn’t mean we’re more productive or efficient.
  • It’s not an accurate measure of how hard we work either.

Some seasons of life and some people are just generally busier than others.

However, when you get too busy and it leads to frustration, anxiety, tiredness, stress, overwhelm or just a feeling of being out-of-sync with the life that you’d like to lead, then maybe it’s time to re-assess things.

Perhaps you could:

The other thing you could do is look at your To Do list.

Are you creating a To Do list that’s strategic, effective and helpful or are you just dumping your entire brain onto paper and hoping to tick it all off by bed time? If this is you, then you’re probably not going to sleep very well!

This post is all about how to write a daily To Do list, to be effective and get things done. It’s about creating a To Do list that is both simple and strategic.

We’ll look in detail at HOW you can write a good To Do list in a moment, but firstly, I just wanted to explain a little about the benefits of writing a To Do list in the first place, rather than keeping it all in your head!


Some of us can retain a lot of information in our minds, others not so much (I definitely fall into the latter category!). Some of us also like to have lists and be ultra-organised. Others just feel pressured and stressed by the very thought of committing thought to paper (my husband is one of those!).

However, I do think it’s helpful to write your list down.

Your brain is meant for so much more than remembering the minute details of your daily life. Free up your mind so that it’s not distracted by clutter and open it up to more wonderful possibilities. To help with this you might like my post on how to declutter your mind.

Write your To Do list down on paper and stop relying on your brain to retain all the information you need.

Here are some of the main benefits to writing your To Do list down:

  • You can prioritise the important things
  • It helps keep you focused on what you’ve got to do
  • Ensures you don’t forget anything
  • Frees up your mental space by getting your thoughts out of your mind and down onto paper
  • You can also tick things off the list as you do them, so you can feel really productive and encouraged to keep going
  • It gives you a visual record of your progress.
How to write a to do list to get things done


Let’s now look at some pointers on how to write a daily To Do list, to be effective and get things done and, of course, keeping it simple and not too complicated…

Choose just 3-5 things

To make sure you get the most important things done, choose just 3-5 things which are THE most important or urgent. If you make your whole list full of important or urgent things, you’re unlikely to get any of them done. If you pick just 3 then you’re much more likely to get them all done.


List your chosen 3-5 items into order of importance and/or urgency. Put the most important (or the most urgent) ones at the top. These are the tasks that have the biggest consequences if you don’t achieve them. List the rest of your tasks in decreasing priority order.

Be specific

Don’t just write ‘Clean the house’. Specify whether it’s upstairs or downstairs, kitchen or bathroom, hoovering or changing the beds. Be clear about what the task actually involves and therefore what it requires from you in terms of time, energy and resources. You can picture how long it will take and, in this example, whether you’ve got all the cleaning products you need to do the job!

Break big tasks into smaller ones

If you have several big tasks which just seem to consume your To Do list (let alone the time it will take to complete the task itself), spend a moment breaking them down into smaller tasks. You can then split these tasks across several days and make it feel easier and less overwhelming to achieve.

Be realistic with your expectations

Try not to put too much on your To Do list in case things take longer than expected or you don’t have much time. It’s better to find yourself with some extra time spare at the end rather than running out of time and feeling stressed because of it.

Move on if you get stuck

If you get stuck, move on and come back to it. If something’s more difficult than you first thought, it’s taking longer than expected or if you’re just plain stuck, leave it for the moment and come back to it another time with fresh eyes and mind. Don’t spend ages struggling with it and getting nowhere. Keep it on your To Do list for another day and revisit it when you’re feeling ready.

Big tasks vs little tasks

Decide whether it’s better for you to knock out 2 really big and important tasks or get 5 smaller niggly ones out the way. The smaller ones might be filling up your To Do list and the 2 very important big tasks might get lost amongst the list of smaller tasks. Look at your To Do list and assess which needs your attention today.

Keep a list for tomorrow

Don’t feel that you need to write everything down on your list to get done today. Create a separate list for tomorrow and keep it handy. If you think of something that needs doing during the course of today that you could do tomorrow, pop it on the list. Read more about how to use a planner to help you be more productive.

Use the same template every day

Use the same template for your list every day. This encourages you to make it a daily habit and so you’re more likely to keep it up.

Keep it simple

You’ll probably know from my website that I prefer to keep things simple! I find they work best like that, I’m more able to sustain them and what’s the point of overcomplicating something that is meant to make our lives easier!

Don’t get caught up in working out timings etc, just list your 3-5 most important tasks (MITs if you want the technical jargon) for the day and tick those off when you’ve completed them. Add things to this list ONLY IF YOU HAVE COMPLETED THESE FIRST ITEMS!

I hope these tips are helpful so you have some pointers on how to write a daily To Do list that helps you stay focused and productive.

The key points to take away are that you’re:

  • Focusing on what’s really important to get done that day
  • Clear on what you need to do to get those things done
  • Giving yourself motivation or incentive for being able to achieve things

This means that not only are you being effective and efficient (rather than just ‘busy’) but you’re much more likely to repeat the whole thing tomorrow!

How to write a to do list to get things done


If you struggle with motivation, consistency, dealing with distractions, managing your time and prioritising getting the right things done, then maybe I can help?

Maximise Your Time is my popular little time management course. We’ll explore how you use your time, ways you can be more productive and find more time for the things you want to do, not just what you have to do.

There are actionable challenges, simple tasks and a series of step-by-step lessons to help you declutter and make the most of your precious time.

Click here to read more about Maximise Your Time and how it could help you!


Apart from creating a great To Do list and clearing space in your schedule, there are many other ways you can get organised and efficient, without giving yourself more to do.

Here are some resources on productivity and time management you might like: