I kind of love to-do lists. They’re so helpful and gratifying. I use them to keep track of everything I want to accomplish at work. And then, as I get things done, I can cross things off the list (which is extremely satisfying).

But to-do lists can also cause problems, if used incorrectly. For instance, if you load up your to-do list with more things than you can possibly accomplish in a day or a week, you might be left feeling guilty and stressed. Or, if you’re addicted to crossing things off your list, you might focus on tasks that are easy and quickly accomplished, while putting off important tasks that might take longer.

So if you’d like to avoid these issues and make a really effective to-do list, follow these guidelines:

  1. Make your to-do list the night before – It will help you to start your day with purpose and direction! You’ll know exactly what you need to do when you wake up in the morning.
  2. Don’t put more than three things on your list – This will ensure that you focus on the truly important things that you need to get done. If this is difficult for you (because you feel like you have a lot of things swirling around in your head that you need to try to remember), make a second “brain dump” list on which you include everything that you need to do. Spend five minutes making this list, and then put it away. Then switch your focus back to your short, simple to-do list.
  3. Put the most important task at the top of your list – Prioritize the items on your list and put the most important task first. Then work through your items from top to bottom.
  4. Don’t discount the small things – Occasionally, you’ll have a task that seems small (like getting your carpets cleaned) but has been nagging at you for a while. If this is the case, make it a priority and put it on your list! Small things can sometimes become stressful and draining if you put them off for too long.

And that’s it! Try to keep things simple and prioritize. Now go forth and start making those lists!


Loder, V. (2014, June 2). Five best to-do list tips. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/vanessaloder/2014/06/02/five-best-to-do-list-tips/#4c885aef651b