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There always seems to be never enough time in a given day to do everything. It’s something I struggle with and I’m sure many of you struggle with too. But I’ve been able to increase my productivity over the years by perfecting an effective to-do list. 

Time is one of those resources that is truly equal to all. Everyone gets 24 hours in a day, the guy pumping gas at the gas station to the guy resting his feet up at his holiday home in the Bahamas. We all get 24 hours, no more, no less.

But time can be a rather fickle matter as well. We all know the feeling of time flying pass in moments we least want it too and then there’s those times where it just won’t, no matter how hard we pray to the heavens above.

effective to do list format


This is because it’s all down to perception of time. Or otherwise, our feelings towards time in any given moment. We feel like we don’t have enough time and therefore we end up never properly managing it. Ultimately we just set ourselves up for instant failure. 

Our preconceived idea of not being able to fit everything in, already made us subconsciously, not-fit-everything-in. Our productivity just plummets and we’re left wondering how on earth did the day just pass so quickly without doing anything. 

Now I have to admit, I’m a work in progress and still need to work on my own perception of time, but this one great trick I picked up has really skyrocketed my productivity levels. And that is to-do lists or more specifically and effective to do list format.

It’s a really simple thing that I’m sure everyone is capable of. Use a designated notebook, scrap paper, your phone, anything! Just something to jot down your list. Just having a visual on what you need to get done and taking the time to write down what you need to get done is going to help, but here’s how I use my to-do list to get the most out of it effectively.

Write it out quickly

Don’t spend too much time mentally going through everything in your head. The list will end up being counterproductive! I give myself 10 minutes max to write it all down, and I don’t go into detail when I write it on the list. 

Use words, short sentences, symbols or even gibberish only you understands. Grammar and spelling is out the door when I make my to-do lists. No one else is going to be reading it but you, so as long as you understand it then you’re doing it right.


Keeping it short

This one is more an art than a science, and the above subtitle sounds rather counterproductive to being more productive everyday. Bare with me though, you’ll be agreeing with me soon on this point. When you’re first starting out, make sure your list is doable. 

Make an effective to do list you KNOW you can finish to boost your confidence and keep you motivated to carry on with this great habit. I want you setting yourself up for success so you have the confidence to make the list longer and finish that also. 

Do this until you find a sweet spot that works for you, and I guarantee you’ll end up being a lot more productive than you were before you started.


Write it in the morning

This is a no brainer, you’ll want to write it down once you get up. Maybe over a cup of coffee or breakfast. Don’t check your emails, don’t scroll your social feeds, JUST get yourself ready for the day and include the to-do list as important as brushing your teeth or eating breakfast.


Keep it to 3

There’s something about the number 3, it just sticks. A trick I use when writing my lists out is keeping to the number 3. I have 3 big tasks that take a LONG ASS time to complete. 3 tasks that need immediate attention because of deadlines or whatnot.

 3 tasks that I need to look into and make a start on, and the rest are tiny micro tasks that I just write down so I don’t forget. This to do list format has been extremely effective for me since it keeps the amount manageable and clearly categorized. 


Cross it out!

Cross out the task once you finish it. It eventually becomes like a game and the reward is the act of crossing something out on your list. Maybe this one is just me, but the satisfaction I get when I see that page completely crossed out is a great daily win I enjoy. It makes me work harder to make sure I actually do get everything done. Try it for yourself.

Approach the list with kindness

effective to do list

OK, before you tune out because you think I lost the plot by asking you to be kind to a list. Don’t!

What I mean is be kind to yourself. I already mentioned the rule of 3 I use in making my list, but it’s also used to categorize the tasks.

 I don’t finish the tasks one by one as they are written on the list, and you shouldn’t either. I finish the tasks according to urgency, difficulty and the way I’m feeling that day. 

There are days where I’m just not feeling great, and those are the days where I do a few small tasks before moving onto the most urgent tasks second and so on and so on.

I’m following the idea of setting yourself up for success. Getting small wins in first, by completing the small tasks. It helps me get through the most urgent ones and then of course the most difficult one. But if, however I’m feeling great I tackle the most difficult tasks first as they tend to be the ones that need the most time.

If you enjoyed this post, share it and leave a comment. Let me know if you have any tips on how you do your lists. Or read check out one of these posts next:

  • Task goals, why everyone needs them
  • Start practicing the Law of attraction

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