How To Write Better To-do Lists

How To Write Better To-do Lists

Think of your most efficient friend, chances are they have a love for a to-do list or three. Ever wondered what their secret is to being so productive, we asked the experts…

Spend Time On Your List

If you’re going to fully embrace your to-do list and make the process of writing it worthwhile, set aside a certain amount time to get to grips with it and prioritise as one of your key tasks. That way, you’ll know exactly what’s on your list and have more of a handle over what needs to done. For coach and NLP business mentor Anna Parker-Naples (, this is really important. "Spend time every Sunday evening or Monday morning planning and prepping your week ahead,” she advises. “Put every appointment, task and goal into your diary, and spot small increments of time that could be useful for general admin tasks. Run through your to-do list for the next day every night so you can start the day with an organised head.”

Have Different Lists

If you’re juggling lots of different things it can be useful to segregate these into different lists. “I write a ‘home list’, a ‘client list’ and a ‘my business list’,” explains Erica Wolfe Murray a business and productivity coach and the author of Simple Tips, Smart Ideas. “Some days I alternate doing tasks from each list, which keeps my mind active and makes me feel I’m really achieving across all parts of my life.”

Prioritise Your Tasks

Understanding what is a priority on your list and making sure you attack that first is the key to being more efficient with your time. “Visualise big goals as part of your planning,” Anna says. “Ask yourself where you are headed that week and what three actions will take you there. These are important. Do them first. Slot them into your diary and make them non-negotiable. It’ll encourage you to not sweat the small stuff. The world won’t come to an end if your dusting isn’t done, but if you don’t make that valuable work connection you’ve been mulling over, you could be sabotaging your progress.”

Batch Activities Together

Make the most of your time by batching activities together on your list. “Batching is when you do all the tasks that fall under the same category at the same time,” explains business coach and mentor Ruth Kudzi. “For example, this might mean doing all your house admin and direct debits together in one swoop, or it could be sending all the emails you need to that day first thing in the morning.” According to Kudzi, we can lose up to 25 minutes of productive time in between activities, so batching similar tasks together reduces the need for us to keep switching mentally between jobs and improves our focus too.

Don’t Put Things Off

There are always two or three things that keep getting moved from one day’s list onto the next, simply because we can’t bear to face them. But, putting things off doesn’t get them done and by having something hanging over your head, you could be jeopardising your productivity levels. “Lists are always a mix of nice things and not so nice,” Erica says. “I used to do all my least favourite things first, to then allow my creativity to take wings once all the painful, tricky things were firmly crossed out. It gave me a sigh of relief knowing that the rest of the day was for working on projects that made me happy.”

Delegate Your Chores

How often do you delegate jobs on your list to others? The chances are, there are plenty of things that other people could help you with – and this is really important if you’re struggling with an ever-growing list that you can’t get on top of. “Learning to empower others to do a task creates more time for you long term, even if it takes longer to train them to do it well,” Anna says. “Enlist family, staff and outsources and make it a job that they own rather than you needing to micromanage it. Often, we think it is better to just get on and do things ourselves but by leveraging your life and business admin and delegating you can improve both family and business relationships long term. Instead of balancing everything on your shoulders and becoming overwhelmed, duties are shared.” 

Assign A Time Schedule

To help you write lists that are manageable and that you’ll really stick to, write down how long each task will take or set aside specific hours of the day for them. “Schedule your activities into a to-do list in your calendar and estimate how long they’ll take,” Kudzi advises. “This means you can be more realistic about what you can achieve, and therefore feel more fulfilled at the end of the day.”

Use Colour-Coding 

No, we’re not suggesting that you make your lists look like something your seven-year-old created, just that you add a bit of fun to your day. “Why should lists be dull and boring?” Erica asks. “Funk them up with colours, patterns and make the crossing-out part of the pattern. I’ve used a bright green highlighter pen to show how much I’ve achieved on my annual home to-do list for the last four years now. It’s all I use it for, but shows just how much I’ve cracked through.”

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