Why I Love Writing To Do Lists and How to Use Them Effectively

Want to start organising your life in a simple and manageable way? Writing to do lists may just be the answer. Find out how to use them effectively, right here…

To Do List Planner

Writing to do lists is something I’ve always done since I was a young girl, and they’ve helped me to achieve a lot of things. To dos helped me get high grades at school and at uni, whilst still enjoying social events, extra curricular activities, and pursuing multiple jobs. But how?

Using to do lists in an effective way is a surefire method to keep your life and mind organised. It’s really not anything ground-breaking or difficult; anyone can do it, with just a little bit of practice.

So, to discover how I use to do lists every day, and my tips on using them effectively and efficiently, don’t go anywhere…

Why Writing To Do List Works

There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you have mountains of tasks to get on with, and then forgetting small things here and there. These little things can really start to mount up, which can make things very stressful. This might mean you start missing important deadlines, get into financial trouble, and maybe even stop you from sleeping properly!

Getting all these small tasks down in front of you is the best way to avoid this. Having everything stored in your head can really clutter up your mind, which can make it tricky to clear your thoughts. For me, this can then put a stop to your efficiency, and what you can achieve that day; the stress builds up, making your brain a jumbled up mess.

By writing lists, you’re clearing your mind from all this clutter, ready for you to give everything in your life its full attention. Add to this the incentive of ticking things off your list one by one , and you’ll become extremely motivated.

Ultimately, writing to do lists ensures our mind remains as unscrambled as possible. It also leads to an increase in efficiency, productivity, and general work ethic.

10 Top Tips for Writing To Do Lists

As a seasoned writer of to do lists, I’ve managed to hone in the best way that works for me. This method has helped me to achieve great things, personally, academically, and career-wise, and keep up with tight deadlines. So, if you want to learn how to revamp your life through this very simple hack, these ten tips should help you do just that…

1. Write it Down on Paper

Although you may think that writing down your list on your phone will help – and it’s certainly better than nothing – writing it down on paper is much more effective. Not only does this help you to visualise and clarify your goals, it also helps to clear your mind. In doing so, you’re almost expelling the words from your brain, and placing them somewhere else.

It also helps to keep you motivated to get your list done. It can be easy to just close your notes app, and never think about it again. Instead, by writing down your list down, even on just a scrap of paper, it’s a physical object you have to acknowledge. Pin it on your pin board or white board, or pop it on your desk or bedside table, and you can’t forget it’s there.

Then, that feeling of completing your list and turning onto the next page in your notebook, or putting your scrap of paper in the bin, will make you feel so accomplished. That sense of achievement is what will keep you productive and motivated.

This is a picture of a girl holding a coffee whilst writing her to do list

2. Add Little Tick Boxes

There’s nothing more satisfying than getting things done, and what makes this even more satisfying is ticking things off your list. This just provides you with that visual confirmation that you’ve completed that task, and can move onto the next one. So, when writing your list, neatly draw little boxes at the end of the page so you can make your way through it one tick at a time.

3. Have Different To Do Lists for Different Aspects of Life

We all have different parts of our life that need organising. We may have work, school, extra curricular hobbies and activities, and general life admin. Each of these aspects is a completely different entity, and needs a list of its own.

My suggestion for this would be to have different notebooks, or different sections in the same notebook, for different areas of your life. This way, you can more easily compartmentalise everything, and not leave one part of your life on the wayside.

4. Have One Master To Do List to Break Up Later

What might work even better is having one master to do list, which has everything you need to complete in life at the moment. This could be all the things that need doing, but that you’d never complete in one day.

Then, every day, you can allocate certain items from this master to-do list to your daily schedule. This way, everything leaves your mind and de-clutters your brain, ready for you to tackle each task with your full attention.

5. Break Tasks Up Into More Manageable Chunks

There might be huge items on your list that seem absolutely insurmountable. For example, you might have an essay or blog post to write, and you keep putting it off because it seems too big of a mountain to climb. The solution to this is to break this up into smaller chunks that you can separate over a few days or weeks.

We’ll stick with this essay example. So, think about the elements of this essay you need to achieve, and break up your list into these segments, for example:

This To Do List is broken up into smaller chunks to make the large task more manageable

These are just some examples of how you might separate this one large task, but you might even want to break it up further. For example, perhaps you won’t get all the extra reading done in one day, and think this might take a couple of days. Then break this section up into every book you need to read as well.

Not only does this allow you to take on each task with your full attention, that constant ticking of items off the list is that positive affirmation you need to complete everything.

6. Write Every New To Do Item Down Somewhere ASAP

During any given day, new tasks might crop up which you really can’t forget about. So, as soon as you think of these, be sure to write them down as soon as possible. This could be on a scrap of paper, or your master to do list, ready to be allocated for the next day.

For me, I just write them down on my list for the day, and then use a migration system for any tasks I don’t complete that day. But what is a migration system?

7. Create a System for Migrating Items Over to the Next Day

I’m one of those people that often writes a pretty manageable to do list for my day, but then has more piled on top of that as the day goes on. For example, perhaps I’ve written my list in the morning, and our morning work meeting brings more tasks to light. Then, once I write them all down on today’s list, it becomes completely unmanageable.

Don’t stress about this. Aim to tick as much off your list as possible, and then come up with a system to migrate these tasks over to the next day.

You might use a code to migrate tasks to another day but, for me, I do something even simpler. All I do is leave the uncompleted tasks un-ticked, and simply write “see yesterday” in my next days list. This way, nothing gets forgotten, and you still have the satisfaction of ticking everything off eventually.

8. Organise Your List so Things Flow Properly

As we’ve seen before, you may have one large task that requires you to do a number of things to get it done. Or, you might have an assignment that has multiple steps to complete it. So, organising your to do list in a way that demonstrates these links between tasks is even better for creating the list of your dreams.

I find that using different styles of bullet points is the best way to achieve this. So, we write our main tasks in the first bullet point, and any sub-tasks off of this in another level of bullet points. It’s a little hard to explain, but this picture should help you to visualise it clearer:

This To Do List Uses different style bullet points to organise tasks easier

9. Write it Out as Neatly and Legibly as Possible

There’s nothing worse than a messy, sprawling list, that is completely illegible and disorganised. So, be sure to write it neatly, coherently, and line by line to make it more manageable. You don’t need anything fancy to make it aesthetically pleasing; just neat rows of to-dos, one by one.

10. Don’t Stress if You Don’t Complete Your List Each Day

Finally, be sure not to stress out if you don’t complete all your to-dos on any given day. There are only so many hours in the day, and you’re not superwoman! Simply make use of some of the methods above, which will help you to manage every task one step at a time, including:

  • Your master to do list
  • The migration system for unfinished to dos
  • Multiple lists for different aspects of your life
  • Breaking your list up into manageable chunks

Sometimes, we can’t avoid being too optimistic about our list, or new items on our list being added on as the day progresses. So, keep your mind clear by utilising these methods, and think about what you have achieved that day. Admire all those ticked boxes, and take it as a lesson to be realistic with your goals for any given day.

A blackboard which has a to do list on it, including the task "own today"

Ready to Start Writing To Do Lists to Organise Your Life?

Those are my reasons for using to do lists, and my top tips for writing them in the most effective and satisfying way possible. This is as much a mental thing as it is a physical way of getting things done. By having everything you need to do written down somewhere, you’re making space in your mind for actually getting these tasks finished. Trust me, it works.

With practice, I have no doubt that not only will you find ways of writing these lists that work for you, but that it’ll become second nature in no time.

Let me know if you found any of these tips useful, and whether you’ll start writing to do lists now that you know the best ways to go about it. I’d love to know how you get on, so be sure to leave any thoughts or findings in the comments down below. Happy listing!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Naomi says:

    Love this post!! I am exactly the same and have always LOVED using lists – they make me so productive and I love ticking everything off. Some days, especially if I’m not feeling too motivated, I find myself adding basic tasks like “make lunch” to the list so that I know I can tick them off, and once a few boxes are ticked I feel better about doing the rest!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanna Journals says:

      That’s such a great idea! I defo did that at uni; adding things like “get washed”, “do make up”… it sounds silly but it really spurs you to keep getting things done, doesn’t it! Thank you for reading again 😊


  2. Mortuza says:

    This is really a great post! It includes all the necessary things that I need to apply while making and managing my to-do lists. I will definitely apply the mentioned methods while managing my own lists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joanna Journals says:

      That’s great! Thanks for reading – I hope you find it useful in future 🙂


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