Top Tips for Effective To-Do Lists

Hello! I'm Charlotte, and I'm the founder of Blog and Beyond. I'm a slightly sarcastic 23-year-old grandma from Glasgow who loves The Sims, Hugh Laurie and programmes about airports. I've been blogging at Colours and Carousels for over eight years and am passionate about helping other bloggers grow.
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effective to do lists

I often get asked how I manage to organise everything I get up to, and the short answer is lists. I love my diary and my calendar and all that jazz, but I make a list every single day without fail. In fact, I even wrote a whole blog post about why I love lists.

To-do lists are simple, but they work so well for me and my messy brain, so let's talk some more about making them work for you.

My top tip? Prioritise.

I used to just make my lists with reckless abandon, which led to me feeling overwhelmed and unable to decide where to start, but then I realised I was doing it wrong. I think it was one of Sarah Knight’s books that encouraged a bit of an epiphany, which completely changed my organisational life. 

So, what was this revelation? It came in the form of a second list. Yes, a second list. 

You start out with what I call the “brain dump” list, where you just write down everything that comes to mind for your day/week. This is the list that helps me calm my anxieties about forgetting to do things, or eases the stress when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Sometimes I’ll break this down into categories like blog, client work, coursework, life etc., but sometimes I won’t.

Then, you take this list and you rewrite it in order of priority. Or, grab some highlighters and highlight the key tasks for the day. I’ll give myself 2-3 top priorities for the day, or one if I’ve got a very big task ahead, which are my “must dos” for that day. 

After I’ve designated my top focus, I’ll put down the stuff that would be good to do, but isn’t necessarily essential at this point in time, like getting ahead of future work, tidying my room or popping to the post office. If I don’t tick these off, they will eventually be bumped up to a top priority, but for the moment they’re not as urgent. 

Avoid overwhelm by breaking things down.

Every big task can be broken down into lots of little tasks. I often find myself looking at my to-do list and thinking “holy shit, I have SO much to do”, but when I take the time to break the bigger tasks down into smaller steps I see that it’s actually not all that bad.

Yes, it means I have more on my to-do list, but for some reason having smaller, more achievable tasks makes it a bit easier to digest. It also helps me figure out where I need to get started, which is good for beating procrastination!

Don’t be afraid to postpone

Sometimes, life gets in the way, and that’s okay! This is easier to do if you have a prioritised to-do list, like I mentioned earlier. That way you’ll know what tasks are absolutely urgent, and what can be gently shoved off your plate to clear up some much needed time.

Remember to make time for the most important thing…

Yourself! Honestly, I forget to do this all the time, but a great way to push myself through an intense workload is by giving myself some treats to work towards. After prioritising my to-do list, I’ll pop in some little things that are more “treats” than anything else.

A lot of the time these don’t actually need to go on my to-do list, because they’re more rewards than anything else, but I think it’s important to remind myself to have some downtime. Or Sims-time.