Making a to-do list

how make to-do list
Ted Scott
Ted Scott
28 February 2024
9 min

There is a lot of information online about how to properly organize yourself and become successful. Almost all experts recommend starting the process of self-organization by creating a to-do list. This is the main tool of time management, always working effectively, which has earned recognition in most countries of the world. The popularity of this method of planning is due to its simplicity and accessibility. To make a list of planned cases, all you need is a pen and a sheet of paper. As a result, you will learn to allocate your time wisely, become more successful and effective in work and personal life. Where to start your list and how to follow it? Let’s try to figure it out.

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Why it doesn’t always work

Each of us at least once in our life tried to use this kind of planning and make a to-do list. But, not all of its items have been achieved. As a rule, 40% of the planned tasks remain unfinished, half of them are accomplished to the end within one day, and 18% of them – within an hour. 10% are accomplished in a few minutes.

To make your list really work, you should include only those things that you can do during the day. It is not necessary to allocate time for general cleaning of the house in a busy schedule. In any case, this task will not be completed because you simply do not have enough time for it.

When making your to-do list for the day, analyze your productivity beforehand. Keep track of how long it usually takes you to complete certain tasks. Check how long you spend preparing for meetings, how much time you spend on business correspondence. Based on your observations, it will be easier to create a plan that actually works.

Where to start making a list

First of all, you should decide on the right time for planning. Some people find it more convenient to set themselves tasks in the morning. Others prefer to make a plan for tomorrow from the evening. Each of these approaches has advantages and disadvantages:

  • A morning to-do list will be more accurate, as it will be easier to manage and can be added to as you go along. Starting the day with planning makes it easier to set yourself up to accomplish important tasks.
  • A list for tomorrow, made in the evening, will help to systematize the information received during the day, to summarize the intermediate results for decision-making. Using this method, you will not have to be distracted from your main work in the morning to set daily tasks. You can start solving them right away.

You should choose the right time to plan based on your own schedule and individual preferences. In some cases, it is more convenient to combine both approaches to increase efficiency. In the evening to analyze the work done, and in the morning to adjust the list as necessary.

How to make a to-do list to help improve performance

To-do lists

A properly made plan for a day, week, month or year will help to achieve success in many areas of life. It is enough to systematically fulfill its each point, taking into account the state of health, external conditions, self-discipline and other things. He will help to rationally distribute forces and resources to achieve the set goals. Let’s understand how to make the to-do list realistic and correct.

1. Remove unnecessary

When making a to-do list for the day, include only what you want and can accomplish in that time. Do not add insignificant or minor tasks to it. The longer your list is, the harder it will be to accomplish the items on it. This will cause anxiety, irritability due to the inability to control the situation, and, subsequently, may lead to health problems.

2. Start with the main

When making your task list with a goal, put the most important thing at the beginning. Start completing the items with these important things. If something changes, if there are force majeure circumstances, at least you will be sure that you have solved the key tasks. Smaller tasks can be postponed until tomorrow.

3. Keep it handy at all times

Having written down the planned tasks in an electronic diary or diary, some people successfully put them “on the far shelf” and try to perform the tasks by memory. Because of this, it ceases to be effective.

Keeping the list handy makes it easier to keep track of which tasks have been completed and which ones need to be completed. In addition, it can be a good incentive to work. Seeing it in front of our eyes always reminds us that we have unfinished business. So let’s not get distracted by talking on the phone, social media content or watching TV shows.

4. Limit each task to a time frame

A person is capable of accomplishing any task in the time he has at his disposal. That is, you can spend the whole working day on one and the same thing, or a couple of minutes allocated in a busy work schedule. Therefore, when planning, it is better to set yourself a tight deadline. The more free time you have, the less guarantee that you will finish the planned tasks on time. If your tasks will be daily rewritten for the next day, such planning cannot be called effective.

5. Remove completed tasks from the list

They are erased, crossed out, marked with crosses or check marks, or any other way to mark the completion of a planned task. This way you won’t be distracted by completed tasks. In addition, the items crossed off the list will be a kind of confirmation of your progress. By evening, you will be able to tell yourself with full confidence that the day was not in vain.

6. Turn list making into a habit

For this method of planning to be successful and effective, it must be used regularly. Making daily to-do lists should become a useful habit, which will help to put your personal and work affairs in order and make your life organized and stable. At first it may happen that you will forget to cross off completed items from the list, or forget about its existence because of minor household chores. But, over time, your brain will get used to the new way of thinking.

7. Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself

Take a few minutes to describe the task in detail. Vague, unspecific wording will not make you want to take action immediately. Therefore, write clearly, briefly, and to the point.

8. Use correct wording

The way in which the essence of the task is written down in the list determines the efficiency and quality of its execution. To make a task in the plan “workable” and “correct”, it must meet the following criteria:

  • Start with a verb in the imperative mood. In the grocery list, you should write “Buy milk”, not “Milk”.
  • Specify a specific outcome: “Write a 10-page outline” instead of: “Write an outline”.
  • Imply specific steps in implementing the plan. It is not necessary to write in the first paragraph: “Start general cleaning”. More correct would be the text: “Buy detergents for general cleaning”.

9. Separate tasks with strict deadlines and more flexible tasks from each other

Flexible activities are those that can be done at any time of the day. These include watering flowers, writing an article, fixing a broken iron, etc. Tasks with rigid limits must be completed in a limited amount of time. For example: picking up your child from kindergarten at 17.00-17.30, taking a bus at 12.20, etc.

In the to-do list, it is better to record such tasks in separate columns:

9.00 – Project MeetingAnalyze statistics on the June report
11.00 – Discussing the implementation of the new CRM with colleaguesCheck the shipment of goods to other country
17.00 – Attend a fitness training sessionMake a report on the promotional campaign
21.00 – Watch the family movie “The Lion King” with a childCheck the prices on the website to make sure they are up to date
 Buy groceries for a weekend get-together with friends

10. Divide tasks into major and minor tasks

If you have too many tasks on your list and you’re in a slight panic because you don’t have enough time to complete them, divide all the items on your list into three categories:

  • Things to be sure to complete today.
  • Tasks that are desirable to complete by the end of the day.
  • Things that can be delayed a bit without compromising your personal life or workflow.

Grouping tasks by activity and location will help you get through them more quickly.

Task list options

Task list options

There are many ways to do daily planning. The easiest way is to take a piece of paper, a pen and write down all your planned activities in any order. This work will not take you much time. But, a list made by one of the following methods will be more effective:

The Schwab method

Its essence is to assign numbers to tasks in the order of their priority and importance. The tasks are started from the first item.

The method of three results

Identify three outcomes related to life goals that need to be achieved in a set amount of time. For example: Enroll in a Chinese course (goal: learn Chinese). Prepare for a presentation (goal: career). Find hosting for a website (goal: to open an online store). Other things in the plan are done as needed.

Methodology 1-3-5

It consists of scheduling no more than 9 cases at a time:

  • One major task;
  • Three medium-priority assignments;
  • Five minor cases.

First perform the tasks from the first and second groups. Then they move on to the secondary ones.

Eisenhower matrix

A universal planning method that involves categorizing tasks by urgency and importance. They are divided into four groups:

  • A – urgent and important (go to the doctor).
  • B – important but not urgent (enroll in IT courses).
  • C – not important but urgent (a haircut at the barbershop).
  • D – not urgent or important (go to the movies).

The execution starts with items A and C. Then come cases from category B and D.

The Pomodoro method

Offers a distinctive approach to organizing and managing tasks. It works like this:

  1. You need to select any of the tasks from the list.
  2. Set a timer on your phone or other digital device for 25 minutes. During this period of time, you should work on the selected task.
  3. After the end of the allotted timing, the task is marked with a cross and a five-minute break is taken.
  4. Then go back to solving the task by setting the timer for 25 minutes. Repeat the described manipulations until the task is completed.

The Alpen way

It consists of five main stages:

  1. A list of tasks is compiled.
  2. It is estimated how much time is needed to solve each of them.
  3. It is calculated how much time is available with a margin of 40%.
  4. The list is customized to fit the time allotted.
  5. The results of the day are summarized. Uncompleted tasks are carried over to the next day.

This method is suitable for people who are chronically pressed for time.

Applications and programs for planning

In today’s environment, making to-do lists on sheets of paper or in paper diaries seems like a “stone age”. Most specialists working in the field of time management prefer to use special services for planning that combine the functions of an electronic secretary and a task planner.


Best Planner Apps for Android

A popular application for organizing the management of personal and work projects. The program is convenient for personal use and effective teamwork. It helps to structure tasks, distribute them by importance and priority. The application has a built-in calendar and an extended set of commands for daily planning:

  • Color, tags, statuses for tasks;
  • Assignments, subtasks;
  • Checklists, productivity tracking;
  • Prioritization of tasks;
  • Notifications and reminders;
  • Internal corporate chat.

With the LeaderTask Manager, you can keep your schedule, plan your work time and personal tasks. The application is compatible with all types of digital devices. It works in online and offline mode. Helps you always keep up to date with your work, no matter where you are. Structures all the information you need and helps you keep it in one safe place.

Remember The Milk

A popular app with a user-friendly, intuitive interface and a full suite of time management tools. Great for storing ideas, household chores, introducing a notebook with notes or a shopping list. Implemented versions for different digital platforms. Integrates with many popular services.

Any Do

Multifunctional electronic tracker with advanced and powerful functionality that ensures efficient work on tasks and projects of any complexity. Allows you to download versions for Android, iOS. View current and upcoming tasks with a single tap using the widget in Google Chrome browser.


Using to-do lists is a win-win way of daily planning that helps you effortlessly organize your work and personal life. For better results, it is better to replace traditional paper planners with modern applications that make it easier to create, edit and modify lists as needed. Some free programs support ready-made templates for different purposes. In electronic planners you can easily change tasks, group and combine them by various features. Also in the programs you can create tasks and set up the function of “recurring tasks”, which will not need to be added daily. They themselves will automatically appear in the compiled list. Finding the perfect electronic diary for productive planning is easy, just check out our review, which presents the top diary programs.

Organize your working hours as you see fit. Prioritize tasks by importance and priority, describing them as clearly and concisely as possible. Limit your tasks to time limits. And, be sure to reward yourself for progress and achievements in their fulfillment. These simple techniques will help you become more successful and organized, achieving better results in your work and personal life.

Professional Task Planner and Organizer
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