How to Do a “To Do” List

I’m a List Person

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m a pretty organized person. I love neat, clean, tidy, and organized. I also love lists. My brain is constantly thinking about what to do, what I need to do, and what I want to do. I love lists, because it helps clear my brain space. I write down what I’m thinking about, and then I feel like I don’t need to remember it. It’s on paper. I can look for it when I need it again.

I have a daily planner. Yes, one of those old fashion things we all used in high school. Yes, I have an iPhone, but no, I don’t use the calendar. You can read more about why, here. Therefore, I keep a daily planner. On it, I have any appointments I have, but I also list out what I want to get done each day. Sometimes, if I have a lot to get done, I write it on a separate sheet of paper.

Now, we all know how to write a to do list. It’s not hard. You just list everything out that needs to get done. But how you go about checking things off is very different for different people. Most of us, myself included, look for what is the most fun to do and start there. What happens though, is that the not fun things, never get done. We just keep delaying doing them. For me, it looks like this… on Monday, I write down “make July budget.” But I don’t really want to deal with that so I do everything else on the list except that. So then, I mark it out and move it to Tuesday’s “to do” list. Guess what? I still don’t want to do it on Tuesday, so it doesn’t get done. And now, it’s on Wednesday list… and on and on until it’s the middle of July, and I still haven’t done my budget!


I was reading a Dave Ramsey book once, and he mentioned how he did to do lists. I don’t remember exactly what he did, but I remember it involved prioritizing. I realized that was my problem. I did a great job writing out my lists, but I didn’t do a good job executing them. I did things inefficiently, because I was usually picking the most fun things to do first.

Now, I prioritize my lists. Sounds a little over-the-top, I’ll admit, but it has made things go so much smoother for me. So here’s how I do it…

1 | I write down everything I’d like to try to get done for the day. I try to not be unrealistic. I don’t write down 30 things. Maybe 8-10. It can be anything from clean out my email inbox to pay bills to do laundry.

2| I look over the list and see what similar things can be grouped together and make a mental note of it. For example, I might have 4 of the 10 things that need to be done on the computer. I might have 2 phone calls to make, or I might have 3 items that all need to be done outside.

3| I prioritize. If I have 10 things on my list, I put little numbers 1-10 beside each one. For example, if I know that the first chance to get anything done will be when my children are in quiet time, then I might do 1-4 beside the 4 computer things on my list. I knock out all the computer things right in a row that way I’m not doing laundry, cleaning out email, walking the dogs, and then paying bills. Instead, I group all “like” things together. I do ALL computer stuff at one time.

Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about…

You can see how I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to on Tuesday. So, on Wednesday morning I will probably finish up Tuesday’s list before I start on Wednesdays. On Wednesday, you can see how everything is numbered 1-9. Numbers 2-6 are all things to be done on the internet. I plan on knocking those out during the hour my children are in quiet time in the morning. The rest I’ll work on throughout the day.

Initially, this might seem like over-kill or just a hassle, but I can assure you, it is completely worth it! It keeps me on task. It makes it so I do “like” things together which saves time. It makes it so I can’t just pick the “fun” stuff to do first. I have to go in the order I set for myself. If I do my lists this way, I usually get them completed by the end of the day. If I don’t prioritize, then I almost never get them done.

This doesn’t have to be done for just a daily “to do” list. It can be done for any type of list. Let’s say you have some improvements you want to do on the house. List them out and then prioritize them. When #1 is checked off (even if it takes weeks or months) then move on to #2 and so on.

Again, I completely get that lists aren’t for everyone. I am a list nerd. I love them. But even if you don’t love lists, sometimes they do come in handy and doing them in the way I’ve mentioned above will make you much more efficient!

1 Comment

  1. Kathleen Darwin on July 20, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    This is wonderful. I’ve been having such a difficult time getting things done-too many to do and disorganized. I will put an organized(!) list together starting today.

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