Soooo much to do. Such limited time. How easy is it to get overwhelmed? Emails to answer. Phone calls to return. Meetings to attend. Documents to write. Kids to pick up. Projects to work on. Does it seem like you have endless tasks, yet so little time.

Are you using the age-old method of a 'to do' list? When done right they can improve your productivity, time management, persistency and focus both in the short and long term..

Here's five tips on how you can write an effective to do list to help you to meet your goals or targets:

Choose your platform

The first step is to choose a platform that suits you. Your computer in a Word or Excel file or special app. On your tablet, smartphone, or my favouite for short term to-do lists - a small notebook that you keep close at hand. For some people the actual physical process of writing the to-do list down helps make it more 'real'.


Not to mention that satisfyingly delicious job of crossing out a completed task! Others may prefer a digital copy that is more convenient and updates across all your internet connected devises. Either way pick what platform suits you and go with it.


You know the age old saying, constancy is key... just like creating any new habit it's important to commit to using it daily. Sometimes you may forget to look at your list but it's vital to ensure that you remain consistent to turn it into a productive work habit.

Be Realistic

Think about how much you can realistically get done in any given day. A general rule of thumb is to not include more than 8 ('mainish') items on a list as you are less likely to get them completed. This in turn can be off-putting. Therefore, guestimate the amount of time and commitment each task will require so you don't over stretch each day. This brings us to the next point.

Make Two

Why not try separating your list into a "master" and "daily" list. This way you can have a general list with all the tasks that need to be completed that week (but not necessarily that day), and another with those that are of higher priority. This will enable you to keep focused without making your daily list feel too long or intimidating. A master list can also avoid that end of week panic.

Try the Ivy Lee Method

As an alternative why not try the Ivy Lee method, which dates back to 1918 but is a simple end of day procedure.

All you do is take 15 minutes at the end of each working day to write down (only) 6 tasks that are the most important to complete the following day. Then prioritize these tasks from 1-6 and write them in order. First thing the following morning focus on your first task only, once finished move onto task two and so on.

If you have anything left unfinished at the end of the day, move it over to tomorrow's six tasks and repeat.

While in theory a 'to-do' list sounds very simple or may seem to not offer much, they can help you to keep focused and avoid distractions during your work day.


And just remember that whether you manage to complete the whole list every day or not, just the habit or act of writing a to do list can give you the power to up your efficiency, time management or productivity skills.