10 Ways To Make An Effective To-Do List

how to make To Do list

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I am sure you are familiar with a To-Do list, they are one of the essential for productivity and most recommended by many when it comes to getting things done. You may feel at times that making a To-Do list doesn’t help. The reason for this is that To-Do lists are not made effectively many times.

If you find it difficult to keep with the To-Do list or they do not benefit you.

This post is going to be useful for you. I’m here to share the 10 ways to make an effective to-do list. These to-do list strategies will help you with

  • Making a good, realistic To-Do list.
  • Organize a To-Do list
  • Keep up with the habit of making and using a To-Do list.

Let’s dive deep to make an effective To-Do list

What is a To-Do list?

  • A To-Do list as the name suggests is a consolidated list of all the tasks you need to perform.
  • It is sometimes called a task list too.
  • It can be a handwritten list or digitally prepared over Excel spreadsheets, word documents, or a specific To-Do app.

Benefits of a To-Do List

Keeping a To-Do list offer many benefits, such as

  1. You don’t need to rely on your brain to remember things.
  2. You can plan your work better as you are aware of the things that you need to do.
  3. It increases your productivity as you can plan and execute your work better.
  4. It motivates you to work, as the work to be done is easily available for you.
  5. It helps you prioritize your work better.
  6. It reduces overwhelm. When you have unfinished or interrupted tasks you tend to recall them more and feel anxious about the same. 

10 Ways to Make An Effective To-Do List

How to make effective To-Do list

1. Choose the right style of To-Do list

There are many ways to make a To-Do list. To reap the maximum benefit of the To-Do list it is a good start to identify the right system that works for you. Essentially the To-Do list can be divided into two major styles i.e. a paper style or a Digital style.

These are further explained below

Paper style

A. You can write a To-Do list in your planner, diary, journal, or notebooks.

  • This style let you have all the task in one place and you can refer back to any earlier task easily. You need not be dependent on specific prerequisites except for your notebook and pen.

B You can make a To-Do list in specific To-Do list notepads

  • These are predesigned in a handy size to be used specifically for making a To-Do list.
  • Since they are specific for the use, it keeps you quite focused on the use, unlike other systems they have a limitation of space so you tend to be intentional while making the list.
  • You can have a list dedicated for a day or a set of tasks with this style of making a To-Do list.
  • Also, they are pretty and fun to use.
  • On the other hand, you may be restricted to use by size and dependent on purchasing the notepad, which can be costly at times.

C You can make a To-Do list in sticky notes

  • Sticky notes are good to make small or daily To-Do lists, they are quite convenient to carry and can be easily organized by color coding for different activities.
  • They are quite handy too.
  • On the other hand, since they are small you cannot make a long list or keep track of all the To-Dos in one place.

Digital style

A) You can make a To-Do list using Excel or Word.

  • In case you like digital planning, you can use either MS Excel or Word document to make your To-Do list.
  • These tend to be preferred options if you are at work as you can copy-paste the task from email to these easily.
  • You have the data more retrievable this way. There are many predefined templates and formats available to use.
  • On the other hand, this system of making a To-Do list may not always be accessible.

P.S. You must try my Dynamic Excel To-Do List, it is a list cum planner cum tracker. A simple system yet very effective.

Dynamic Excel Task Planner


  • One-stop solution to have all your tasks
  • Schedule your task on the go
  • Easily visualize your task status
  • Never miss your daily and pending tasks
  • Track your progress easily with graphical tools
  • Get motivated by seeing 100% completion of daily tasks
  • Check Demo video here

B) You can make To-Do list sticky notes on a computer

  • This is a fun and quick way to make a To-Do list, combining the power of a digital To-Do list with the conventional sticky nite benefits.
  • You can access sticky notes for free as a google chrome extension from here or can just search for it in Microsoft Office for free too.
  • You can change the note color, and text color and keep it handy to access at any time.
  • Unlike the original sticky note, you cannot lose these digital ones.

C) You can make a To-Do list using specific apps

  • There is a range of specific apps available to make and manage a To-Do list.
  • These apps help you organize better and can access easily over the phone.
  • They offer some advantages over the other digital system by allowing you to set reminders, repeat tasks, etc.
  • Some of the common To-Do list apps are Trello, Todoist,  Google task.
  • On the other hand, you need to have internet access to use these anytime.

I am personally not a fan of using apps to make a To-Do list as they run mostly on phones and I may be giving myself an opportunity to get distracted by using them.

2. Organize the To-Do list

  • Once you are clear on the type of To-Do list that you will be using, the next important is to organize your To-Do list.
  • It is not a good idea to have all your work in one To-Do list unless they bear some similarity. 
  • Having just one list may be overwhelming and may not be very effective. You can organize your list based on the priority or similarity of work.
  • One of the ways to organize your To-Do list is to have all your office or work tasks in one list and a separate one for personal work.
  • If you deal with multiple projects you can also organize them based on different projects. You can color-code your list to categorize.
  • For the most repetitive tasks, you can make a master list to keep your To-Do list better organized. You can read 20 Lists to make to organize your life and 12 Master Lists you must make to be organized at work for more details on making a master list.

3. Keep your To-Do list in view

  • It is a good strategy to always have your To-Do list in front of you to improve your focus and to make the most use of it.
  • You can either place your To-Do list at your work desk or place it on your computer screen to avoid distraction.
  • If you use a digital To-Do list you can have your daily task on-screen either through the app or through the post it. 
  • Keeping the To-Do list handy also helps you write any new task easily as and when they come making you stick to the habit of using a To-Do list.  
running To-Do list

4. Keep a running To-Do list

  • Your To-Do list should be dynamic, any time you come across any work to do you should instantly transfer the same to your respective To-Do list. 
  • This way you will not miss anything. Hence it is important to decide the right kind of To-Do list system that works for you.
  • If anytime you need to add an action item to the To-Do list and the same is not accessible, there are pretty good chances that you will not make an effective To-Do list or give up on using the To-Do list.

5. Write actions to your To-Do list

  • When you are making a To-Do list it is important to write it to be more effective. A good To-Do list should not have goals but actually achievable actions.
  • If you need to submit a project report for XYZ at work, then rather than just writing a project report, make it more actionable and clear such as making a project report for XYZ.
  • In the case of a bigger task, it is advisable to break the task into small achievable actions like preparing an outline for the project report and preparing graphs and charts for the reports.
  • Adding action to the To-Do list makes it easier for you to visualize the work and ultimately do it.
To-Do list to be productive

6. Use a multi-layer To-Do list

  • As I said earlier you need not have one To-Do list but multiple To-Do lists.
  • This not only organizes your work but also makes it effective.
  • I like to work with multiple layers for To-Do list. You need to have a master To-Do list which will be all the repetitive routine work that you always do at work or home, such as a cleaning list, household chores list, routine work chores list, etc.
  • With this as a base, you can prepare your weekly To-Do list and add any additional work that needs to be done.
  • Based on the weekly To-Do list for work and personal life you make a daily To-Do list.
  • This ultimate daily To-Do list will help you get things done in all areas you need to work. The daily To-Do list keeps you focused.

7 Write task and not goals

  • Often while preparing a To-Do list you mistake being ambitious and end up writing goals rather than tasks.
  • Your To-Do list is not for the goal but for the actions that you need to perform in order to achieve that goal.
  • A simple way to distinguish this is by asking yourself a question will you be able to strike off the tasks from your To-Do list in a day or week. If the answer is no, break it down into smaller task that is achievable  

8. Revise your To-Do list as required

  • Tasklist need not be ridged, keep scope for flexibility.
  • You can revise your To-Do list as you feel the need for it. We all face unexpected situations and giving yourself scope to accommodate some other work or move your day’s task to some other day should be acceptable.
  • If you feel that you will not be able to work on some tasks on your weekly To-Do list you can assign it to others or seek help in completing them.
  • So keep yourself flexible and revise your list when you need it.

9. Make your daily list a day before

  • This is one of the most effective tips on productivity in general and is associated with the To-Do list, so had to be discussed.
  • Based on your master To-Do list or weekly To-Do list prepare your daily To-Do list at the end of the day for your next day.
  • Make sure to move any unaccomplished work to the next day’s To-Do list. 
  • Preparing the To-Do list in advance for the day helps you get started instantly with the work for the next day.
  • Follow the rule of eating the frog and tackle the most difficult work on your To-Do list first thing in the morning.

I think we all are guilty of striking out the easiest task on the To-Do list to feel accomplished but what matters is the work on things that bring more reward or take us closer to our goal.

10.  Batch the task together

  • When planning your To-Do list batch similar small tasks together to make the most of your time.
  • When you work on similar work in one session you reduce the time required to do the work and also be more effective as you have all the prerequisites for the work already laid out and you do not have to spend time to align your thought with the work each time.
  • When you switch tasks you lose some time to refocus on the work and get the context of the work.
  • Batching work reduces this time and improves your productivity. So always try to batch your work together.
  • Eg, rather than answering emails 10 times a day you can attend emails only 1 or twice a day.

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How to make productive To-Do list


Hey, now that you know the strategies to make a good To-Do list to get things done you are close to making an effective To-Do list. Go ahead and use these to make your To-Do list. Following the things mentioned in this post, you will no longer find difficulty in keeping up with the To-Do list and will be able to make a realistic To-Do list. 

I hope you find these useful. 

Make sure to check out my Dynamic Excel To-Do List, it’s a game changer.

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