How To Write Better To-Do Lists

There’s an art to writing good effective to-do lists.

For some people, a scrap of paper and a few to-dos does the job, but for others, including me, our minds can be such chaotic places that we need something a bit more structured.


If you feel frustrated with your current system, this post is for you.

If you’re getting things done, but still feel like you’re in the same place, or if you constantly find yourself procrastinating… keep reading for my tips on writing better to-do lists.


your most important task

Your most important task

If you only had time to get one thing done today, what would it be? This is your most important task. It’s important to differentiate between tasks that you’d like to get done and what you actually need to do. We often put off more difficult tasks and distract ourselves with ‘easier’ tasks but real progress and growth comes from taking action on what’s most important.

Identifying your most important task will keep you accountable. It also makes you pause and reflect for a moment: what’s the most important thing I can do today? It’s not as easy to avoid doing something when you’ve marked it clearly as the most important thing you could do today!

Start somewhere

Leave no room for confusion. Use specific, clear language that turns vague to-dos into actionable tasks.

If you struggle with perfectionism (like me) you may find that you avoid doing a task because the thought of it is intimidating. If you find that you have trouble starting, try using language that encourages you to just start as a to-do. Instead of “write new blog post”, try “start draft for new blog post”. That way, even just writing a few lines will be enough to check off that to-do and it means that you took one step closer. Sometimes you just need a little push before you find the momentum to keep going.

There have been so many times when I’ve encouraged myself to just start and ended up doing way more than I thought I would.


time blocking

Time blocking

Use a schedule to assign tasks to manageable time slots. This way you can realistically see how much you can get done in a day, or give yourself a reasonable deadline to complete a task.

I use a schedule along with my to-do list as it not only helps me plan out my day, but I like to use it as a running log to see how my time is being spent.

Long-term context

Real productivity is when your day-to-day hustle aligns with your long-term goals. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that being busy always equates to being productive.

To help me be more intentional with my own to-do lists, I created cards with prompts that I keep in my planner and look at each morning while planning for the day ahead. These were inspired by the questions from the fantastic free app Grid Diary.

It’s also important to check-in and align with your long-term goals by taking the time to do quarterly plans and reviews. You’ll be surprised at how much progress you’ve made in 3 months!

Our Goal Planner Pack is designed to help you stay on track to achieving your goals. It has all the templates you need to breakdown your bigger goals and check-in on your progress every 3 months.

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It is so important to develop a migration system that works for you! It doesn’t have complicated, just a straightforward routine so that all tasks left on your to-do list are handled and not neglected.

A good migration system forces you to reflect and be intentional about your to-do list. It provides long-term context for your daily to-dos.

I’ve applied a variation of the Bullet Journal migration system in my planner which has been working really well for me.

How I migrate tasks:

  • If a task is complete or resolved, mark it with “✓”

  • If a task is no longer needed, mark it with “X”

  • At the end of the day decide whether your remaining open tasks are still relevant. If not, mark it with an “X”. If it still needs to be completed or needs your attention, then ‘migrate’ the task by marking it with “>”.

(Choosing to cross out tasks is a personal preference.)

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I want to know…

How do you write to-do lists? What works for you?

Leave a comment below!


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