woman writing a to list with a coffee upside down to camera

How to have successful daily to do lists

Daily to do lists don’t work for everyone, but many people find them useful. I’ve found as I’ve got older (well, it started since having a baby 11 years ago), I’ve needed to write down tasks to have a hope in remembering them. Sometimes just an alarm will do (for remembering I’ve got something in the oven), otherwise calendar or phone reminders for longer term, and a written list for things I’m doing that day.

How do you write successful daily to do lists, and what are some things you should be adding to them?

how to write a successful daily to do list

How to write a successful daily to do list

1. Don’t write too many things down

There’s only so much time in the day and having too long a list puts people off, making it unachievable.  Some people write everything they need to do, but for most, it’s those things over and above the habitual routine items.

2. Tick off what you’ve done

There’s nothing more satisfying than ticking off items. Feel free to write and tick off items you’ve already done. But don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t get done (if it can move to another day).

3. Refer to it often

There’s no point having a list if you leave it at home.  If you need it through the day, use something like your phone to keep it with you.

4. Put timings beside tasks

If you know you have to do something by a certain time or day, make sure you’ve noted that.

5. Block time in for urgent tasks

If things can’t wait, you need to make the time for them.

6. Keep daily tasks to a daily list

For tasks that will take longer they should be broken down into smaller tasks. Move the overall task to a longer term plan.

7. Choose the method of to do list that works for you

Some like a list. Others get overwhelmed – so having an ongoing list, but only choosing one item to focus on at a time works better.  Others prefer just blocking out a calendar with tasks.

8. Take accountability

If you want to make things happen share them.  Lots of people share theirs on social media – they can help others remember what they need to do, and also remove pressure seeing others not achieving all of theirs each day. 

9. Write them fast

It’s meant to be quick and easy to scan, so you want short bullets or even one word. Not an essay to wade through.

10. Add or remove during the day as needed

And start a new one daily. You want to remove the burden if you didn’t tick everything off the day before.

woman writing a to list with a coffee upside down to camera

What to add to a daily to do list

  • Work items – generally it works better to keep work things separate from home and personal to do lists. But I do often add personal things to my work calendar so I can remember those too
  • Medical appointments or prescription needs
  • Shopping lists – food, or reminders for items you need to pick up
  • Family events or appointments, school reminders
  • Cleaning chores
  • Finance reminders – do you need to pay something or do you have something coming in, pocket money day
  • Items you need to post – online sales, letters, birthday cards or presents
  • Birthday reminders – online can be on the day, for sending physical gifts add to your list in advance so you remember to buy and post.
  • Gardening chores
  • Transport reminders – filling up with fuel, or public transport timetables
  • Exercise – block in time and what you’re doing that day
  • Food – especially if you get engrossed in what you’re doing and forget to eat. You can add getting food out of the freezer to defrost, food prep needed, sorting leftovers out.
  • Rubbish/recycling day reminders
  • Self care time and task

Get more efficient with these productivity list ideas

What type of things do you add to your daily to do lists?

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  1. These are some really great suggestions. I use to write a to do list so long and it was just setting myself up for failure. Now, I have 3 main tasks to do each day and then if I get anything else done on top of that off my main monthly task list then great, if not I have still achieved what I wanted to do that day. Thank you for sharing your tips!

    Lauren x

  2. I love all the tips you shared here Emma. They are all so good! I’m a lists and journaling junkie too 😉 So the whole feel of your blog and this post makes me very happy. Big Love!❤️

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. I’d love to bullet journal but I know I’d make a right mess of it. My writing is not neat at all.

  3. This is a great post. I have always been a list writer and they have always benefitted me especially when I was at University years. I agree that they are something you need to constantly refer back to, and I mean who doesn’t love ticking things off? I am a sucker for that haha! Plus I feel lists for me help me to just declutter my brain, especially if there is a lot of things to get done in personal life or work life. Thanks for sharing x

    1. You’re right, there’s always so much going on in our heads, lists of some knd are crucial for so many of us. I’m in awe of my 20yo self who remembered everything without a list!

  4. I love a good to do list. There is nothing more satisfying than marking things off as you complete them!

  5. Most days I write myself a to do list. It helps me stay on track of what I need to do. I always add a couple of really easy jobs just so I can tick them off. hehehe Sometimes I have 2 lists, one of things that need doing that day and one of stuff that needs doing but which isn’t urgent x

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