Tips for a Tangible To-Do List

Posted by npocpas1 npocpas1
Tips for a Tangible To-Do List

No matter what it is you’re juggling, there just never seems to be enough time in the day. Whether you’re working from home, running a family household, juggling a job and going to school at the same time, or running multiple businesses, it's all too familiar to be stressed over a to-do list.

Modern day life can be overwhelming, to say the least. Tasks seem to stack up quicker than breakfast joint pancakes. Luckily, there are ways to manage! In comes…the TO-DO list. The catch all of your unresolved tasks and projects. At times, this list can be your worst enemy. But today we’re guiding you on how to turn your list into the invisible shoulder to cry on when you’re feeling like you don’t know where to start.

Not every approach to list making is effective…if you just write it down and forget about it, spill coffee on it and then accidentally throw it out, write it on a current page of your calendar planner but flip the page next week and leave the unresolved list behind…let’s just say there are some missteps that can stand in your way of productivity. Although not everyone works in the same way, we’ve got some tips for effective list making that are sure to help the average Joe or Jane. Let’s take a look…

Make A List

Okay Okay…this is a pretty obvious place to start but why do lists help? This is an important psychological step to calming your mind. Having all of your tasks floating around in your head contributes largely to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Once you are able to extract them from your cluttered mind and transfer them to a physical list, you can start to focus your attention on completing them, rather than just thinking about them.

The most important part of this step is to make a list that works for YOU. Some will prefer an old school pen and paper method (cute notebook, planner, scrap paper, post-it notes??), others will do better with a digital version (I-Notes, note taking apps, etc) or maybe you’re the type who likes a dry erase board next to your desk.

Personally, I have multiple lists locations. I use a white board marker on my bathroom mirror, so that I am reminded every morning of tasks that I can easily complete that day (there’s something ever so satisfying about erasing as the day goes on). Additionally, I am also an old school pen and paper loving kinda list maker. I carry my little notebook around in my bag, so that I can add to my list whenever I think of something in my head (we all know this can happen at the most random times and if not written down immediately, the idea is likely to slip away again, to return at another unknown time!).

 Keep It Updated

It’s important to stay active with your list. Keep it updated by crossing off items that have been completed and adding new items as they come up. Having access to your list when you are out and about will be helpful for this tip, so try to carry your notebook or planner along with you or if you choose a digital version, make sure it is accessible from your phone.

As the days or weeks go on, it is also helpful to evolve your list. Once you have crossed off a good chunk of items, transfer the remaining items to a new list and continue to add to that. This makes the most sense with handwritten lists, as they can get messy as you cross off and jam new items onto the paper.

Roll The Ball With Small Stuff

When you stare at a long list of TO-DOs with nothing checked off, it can feel a little like there’s no end. That’s okay because we can quickly jump over that hurdle by starting with some small and easily achievable tasks. Maybe one of your TO-DOs is to wash the dishes (which you estimate will take 10 minutes), this can be a great place to start. It may seem like something you don’t really need to write on your list, as you will see the dishes in your sink and remember that you need to handle that BUT adding even the smallest of tasks will allow you to cross them off. If you can cross off a handful of short tasks within, say 30 minutes or so, you will start to feel the joys of progress and your motivation to tackle the more time-consuming tasks will increase!

Identify Your Top Priorities 

Small tasks are perfect for building up your motivation and feeding your productivity but they aren’t always the most important line items. Every morning try to identify at least 3 of your top priority tasks. Is it tax season? Have you been putting off your bookkeeping? You don’t want to have a false sense of productivity by only checking off small stuff but continuing to avoid the big stuff. A good strategy here is to put some stars next to your high priority tasks. Make sure you are crossing off starred items on a daily or at least regular basis (depending on the length of your list, your schedule and timelines for completion).

It’s normal to procrastinate some of the big stuff. Another strategy that I like to use, is to add upcoming tasks (such as tax prep) to my TO-DO list very far in advance to the deadline that I wish to complete them by. This allows me to procrastinate them, without putting them out of my mind. I know that I won’t forget because it is accounted for but I also know that I have time to put it off…which for some reason feels relieving. By the time this big task becomes top priority, as deadline is approaching, I feel more ready to tackle it, as I have been writing it down on a continuous stream of TO-DOs for months and mentally preparing myself to get it done when the time is right.

Plan Ahead

Having a list is helpful, we’ve established that. Yet, what if you don’t save yourself the time to actually tackle the list? This can be problematic and renders the list mostly ineffective. In order to avoid this, make sure you plan ahead. Whether you have a set 9-5 job or your working hours are more sporadic, choose some time slots that you can spend crossing items off your list. Maybe 30 minutes when you wake up in the morning is a good time to tackle some of the small stuff, to get the ball rolling. Perhaps you can take a lunch break to handle a top priority item and maybe the evening is a good time to check off one or a few more things. Everyone’s schedule is different but if you plan accordingly, you can even set yourself a timer. Whether it’s a 10-minute timer to tidy up your house or a 30-minute timer to work on a more time-consuming task, it will help to keep your mind focused on productivity and allow less distractions to veer you off course.


Life can be overwhelming but the most important tip I have for you is to stay calm. No matter how expansive your list is or how busy your life is, you will always be more equipped to handle the load when you are cool, calm and collected.